Booster Vaccine Required for Manhattan Students for the Fall Semester

By Isaiah Rosario, Asst. Sports Editor 

Students who are enrolled for on-campus classes in the fall 2022 semester must receive a booster vaccine by Aug. 1. Employees of Manhattan College also must receive their booster vaccine by June 15. 

Students that are enrolled in on-campus classes in the summer of 2022, who will reside in residence halls for summer break, and those participating in college activities over the summer must receive their booster vaccine by June 15th. 

For students with exemptions from the booster, wrote in an email that “Employees and/or students with an approved exemption are required to test weekly (every 7 days) and wear a facemask indoors.  On-campus testing is still being offered in Smith Auditorium, and additional testing days may be added as the year progresses.”

The interim vice president for student life, Esmilda Abreu-Hornbostel, spoke about what the process was like to come to such a vital decision for Manhattan College students and staff for the upcoming semester. 

“[The co-chairs to the provost, Tamara Britt, student life] and myself had been wanting to be responsive to the changes in the city,” Abreu-Hornbostel said. “When the city changed their requirements and lifted some of their constraints … We said, ‘This is the opportunity to revisit and reshape our policies because we have a little bit more flexibility’.”

One Manhattan is basing its decisions on city regulations as well as the numbers that they see on campus, regarding COVID-19 cases on campus and transmission rates amongst students and staff. 

“We’re constantly taking a pulse of what’s happening on campus,” Abreu-Hornbostel said. “What we were noticing was steady decline cases and a really solid foundation of health. We knew we could start being a little bit more flexible and that meant [dropping] the mask mandate.”

Often when mask mandates were dropped across the nation, states noticed a steady incline of COVID cases. Abreu explained how that trend transferred over to Manhattan College as well.

 “We noticed almost immediately after the mask mandate got very relaxed, the cases started going up,” Abreu-Hornbostel said. “So we said, how do we create an environment that’s healthy … So boosters came up for two reasons, the first reason with the masks and the second reason is that the CDC has now defined a fully vaccinated person as a person who has the first dose, the second dose, and the booster. So that’s a fully vaccinated person, according to the CDC, so we said okay we will be fully vaccinated on campus and that was some of the logic behind our decision to bring boosters.”

On March 29, the FDA approved the 2nd dose of the vaccine for certain immunocompromised individuals and people over the age of 50. With that being said Britt affirmed that as of “right now” there are no intentions of changing the vaccine requirements for the upcoming semester if the 2nd boost of the vaccine is recommended by the FDA for adults.

With the mask mandate looking like it will not be in place during the 2022 fall semester, it raises the question of what to do with students who are not “fully vaccinated” and who are supposed to be wearing masks indoors. 

Tamara Britt, vice president for external and legal affairs, general counsel and chief of staff to the president spoke about how the mask mandate for not fully vaccinated students will work.

“We are debating and this is tough,” Britt said. “We do have the campus ambassadors, we do currently have the past system. If we continue that that will be a way to enforce, but we’re also looking at potentially rolling back that system as well. So all of this is up in the air, but right now, what we’re trying to do is get through the semester, make sure people get to do what they need to do, take their exams, and go on about their business.”

The booster vaccine has brought controversy across the country, raising questions such as if the first 2 shots work, “why do I need to take another one?” or about people worrying about the “side effects” of the vaccine. Professor and Chair of the Political Science Department, Pamela Chasek wrote in an email to The Quadrangle about her support for the booster vaccine requirement for students and staff for the fall semester. 

“I support the booster requirement,” Chasek wrote. “I think that students, faculty, and staff should do whatever is necessary to stay healthy and to ensure that those around us, especially those who are elderly and immunocompromised can also feel comfortable and stay healthy.”

The booster vaccine seems to be getting approval from the political science department as Winsome Downie, professor of political science, also verbally spoke on the vaccine by showing her support. 

“I think it’s a good idea and the reason I say that is my husband’s a physician and so I’m getting a medical perspective from him aside from what I read in the paper myself, but COVID is not going anywhere, it’s not gone,” Downie said. 

Manhattan College has been receiving high praise from faculty since the start of the pandemic for how it handled COVID precautions. 

“I do appreciate the fact that the college has been very, very good at maintaining this COVID portal to at least remind us because it’s very easy to forget to go get another test, I think that has been very helpful …  It’s just one of those things that we realize is helpful and especially it’s a way of considering older people, these professors, your grandparents or older relatives,” Downie said. “I think helping us to be sensitive to the fact that we need to be at least protecting our elders or caring for our fellow human beings and so on is a good thing and I certainly support that.”

For students curious about Daily Symptom Tracker for the upcoming semester, Britt says that One Manhattan will reevaluate this decision but as of now students will need to continue to update their Glance Apps throughout the end of the semester. 

“[The Daily Symptom Tracker] is something that’s up for discussion as well,” Britt said. “Definitely through the end of this semester [students will continue to update their green pass], and then we will reevaluate like we do everything else. We don’t just say this is what it is, and there’s no further discussion, we do reevaluate you know, in some cases, it might take the form of a survey in some cases it might take the form of  going to whatever the representation is, so student government, faculty council, etc.” 

The COVID pandemic is full of the unexpected. With that being said, throughout the pandemic, we have seen numerous spikes in COVID after a steady decline in cases. Abreu-Hornbostel said that although reverting to past restrictions is not ideal, it is about the health of the students and staff on campus. 

“​​I hate the idea of bringing restrictions back or limitations back but …  if that is our first line of defense, and it has been, then we would have to bring back the masks,” Abreu-Hornbostel said. “My hope is that we will start creating some sort of homeostasis … so that’s my hope. I say I can’t say for sure that is going to be what it is. We’ve already seen shutdowns again, in different countries, we’ve already seen folks going back to certain mandates in other regions and we just need to be responsive but I’ll tell you this, we won’t do anything that doesn’t make sense for our campus.”