By Emma Reilly
The COVID-19 pandemic is anything but static. Individuals and communities have constantly adapted since February 2020. Now, as variants make headlines and case numbers fluctuate, further adjustments are necessary.
There is no doubt that the efforts of Washington College’s community were successful in preventing the spread of COVID-19 on campus this semester. The College’s mask guidelines and COVID-19 vaccination requirement — along with student, faculty, and staff’s willingness to comply with those policies — helped maintain a healthy community this fall.
Nevertheless, the College’s COVID-19 policies must be updated for the upcoming semester. It is ill-advised to approach the spring 2022 semester in the same way that we did the fall 2021 semester.
The discovery of the new Omicron variant and widespread approval of COVID-19 booster shots by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention cannot be ignored. WC needs to reconsider its plans accordingly.
While requiring initial vaccination against COVID-19 is effective and comforting, research indicates that booster shots are vital to protecting against serious illness resulting from COVID-19 in their own right.
“The [booster] vaccines appear to lead to less transmission and also reduce the chances of long COVID-19 if the person does become infected with the virus.” Vox’s Dylan Scott said. Many experts are persuaded that the benefits of boosting most everybody outweigh the risks.”
WC should prioritize the community’s safety by initiating a booster shot requirement for eligible students next semester.
According to the CDC, anyone age 18 or older should get a COVID-19 booster shot. Anyone can get any booster, as long as the appropriate period of time — six months since the second dose for Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccine recipients and two months since initial vaccination for Johnson & Johnson vaccine recipients — has passed.
Since the College required the vaccine for students this fall, many will be eligible for a booster by February.
Though individuals who are vaccinated and have not received a booster shot are still considered “fully vaccinated,” booster shots protect against the reduction of the vaccine’s effectiveness over time.
According to the CDC, “COVID-19 vaccines are working well to prevent severe illness, hospitalization, and death, even against the widely circulating Delta variant. However, public health experts are starting to see reduced protection, especially among certain populations, against mild and moderate disease.”
Boosters keep COVID-19 vaccines functioning at full capacity, even in the case of easily contractible variants. This fact is especially important in light of the World Health Organization’s new classification of the Omicron variant as a “Variant of Concern.”
According to the WHO’s website, it is yet to be determined how effective the COVID-19 vaccine is against Omicron. However, the organization still recommends initial vaccination and booster shots as they both are proven to be effective against Delta.
WC should encourage students, faculty, and staff to protect both themselves and those around them in every way possible. If the College is willing to require the vaccine, there is no reason why they should not do the same with boosters.