Northeastern requires booster vaccine shots for students, faculty, staff in the US

Northeastern University has updated its vaccine requirement to include booster shots for eligible students, faculty, and staff who work or study on a U.S. campus. Photo Matthew Modoono/Northeastern University

As part of an ongoing effort to manage the COVID-19 pandemic, Northeastern University has updated its vaccine requirement to include booster shots for eligible students, faculty, and staff who work or study on a U.S. campus, the university announced Thursday. 

All faculty and staff who work at one of Northeastern University’s U.S. campuses and all students attending or visiting a U.S. campus are required to receive a booster shot by January 18, 2022 or as soon as they become eligible,” wrote Ken Henderson, chancellor and senior vice president for learning in an email to the Northeastern community.

Claire Wallace, a graduate student in the university’s media advocacy program, said, “I am glad that the university is continually taking steps to keep its students safe. Requiring the booster vaccine complies with the government’s recommendations, and the recommendations of scientists, and it’s the best move on the part of Northeastern.”

She added, “At this point, those who are unvaccinated are putting everyone around them at risk, are incredibly selfish, and are allowing new variants of this disease to continue to mutate and spread. While getting a third shot might seem like a hassle, it’s the important next step that everyone can take to continue the global fight against this devastating virus.”

With the omicron variant spreading around the nation and the world, vaccination remains the best public health measure to protect people from COVID-19, slow any transmission of the virus, and reduce the likelihood of new variants emerging, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In mid-November, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration authorized single booster doses of both the Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines for anyone ages 18 and over. The federal administration authorized single-dose Johnson & Johnson/Janssen boosters for the same age group a month prior. The CDC has said that people can get any booster shot, regardless of the brand of their original vaccination.

“I’m really glad the university is adding booster shots to its arsenal of preventative measures,” said Laurel Leff, journalism professor at Northeastern. “I’m not an expert, but everything I’ve seen suggests that boosters are important in stopping the spread of the virus, including the new variants. I feel much better being on campus knowing that booster shots are available to our community.”

Students, faculty, and staff who are 18 and over are eligible for boosters based on which vaccine they’ve received previously, and when. People who received Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna are eligible for a booster six months after their second shot. People who received Johnson & Johnson are eligible two months after their single-shot vaccine. 

“Boosting is absolutely critical,” said Mansoor Amiji, university distinguished professor of pharmaceutical sciences and chemical engineering at Northeastern. Preliminary studies found that the omicron variant can evade vaccine protections from a two-dose series, but that patients who had gotten a booster shot were notably more protected from getting seriously sick, even from that variant. “It makes sense because you are basically building these antibody concentrations that are high enough,” Amiji said. “In addition, you’re also priming your immune cells” to stop any infection from spreading and becoming severe.

The university will provide more information about how to upload documentation showing proof of the booster shot in the coming days. 

“I’m a firm believer that the more people there are who are fully vaccinated, the faster COVID will be in the rear view mirror,” said Matthew Carroll, journalism professor of the practice at Northeastern and Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist for the Boston Globe.

“Personally, I support Northeastern’s booster requirement, especially when considering the rapid spread of the variants,” said Madison Xagoraris, a third-year communications student. “I’ve always been in support of the vaccine requirement as I have family and friends who are healthcare workers and immunocompromised. That said, if Northeastern is going to require students to receive boosters, I think they should provide more availability to schedule a booster shot. From personal experience, it’s difficult to find an available appointment in Boston and the time windows might be a little too narrow for students on campus.”

Vaccine clinics are also available in locations across Northeastern’s campus network, including Massachusetts, California, Washington, Maine, North Carolina, Virginia, British Columbia, Ontario, and the United Kingdom.

Northeastern’s COVID-19 testing laboratory, which has been monitoring variants as they’ve emerged throughout the pandemic, can also detect the omicron variant through existing protocols—a measure that will save the university community precious time in identifying and responding to the mutation.

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Editor’s note: This story was updated on Dec. 10, 2021, because two vaccine clinics were canceled due to an unexpected issue with the third-party provider, PelMeds.