By Grace Hogsten
Elm Staff Writer
Earlier this month, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released a new vaccine booster against COVID-19 developed specifically to target the Omicron variant, which is available for people ages twelve and older.
According to the CDC, the Omicron variant is extremely contagious, so vaccination may be instrumental in abating furthur spread.
“The updated COVID-19 boosters are formulated to better protect against the most recently circulating COVID-19 variant…If you are eligible, there is no bad time to get your COVID-19 booster, and I strongly encourage you to receive it,” CDC Director Dr. Rochelle P. Walensky said in a media statement on Sept. 1.
Moreover, COVID-19 boosters may become an annual occurrence. According to a White House press release: “This week, we begin a new phase in our COVID-19 response. We are launching a new vaccine, our first in almost two years, with a new approach. For most Americans, that means one COVID-19 shot, once a year, each fall.”
Currently, Washington College requires students to be vaccinated against COVID-19 and to have received a booster shot as well.
As WC considers a future where COVID-19 boosters may become routine, the question arises as to whether the school will require students to receive annual COVID-19 booster vaccines.
“I would highly recommend they become an annual requirement…all the COVID-19 protocols are supported by best practice, CDC evidence, guidance from our local health officials and only after careful consideration by the Alert group and the Contingency planning groups of the college,” Director of Health Services Lisa Marx said.
In the future, WC should require COVID-19 boosters. Because members of the campus community spend so much time in close proximity to each other, the risk is high. Without necessary immunization, many WC students and staff will test positive for COVID-19, and will face symptoms and potential long-term effects.
Even now, the campus community is experiencing a surge in COVID-19 cases; according to an email from the WC Response Team, WC has 52 confirmed cases of COVID-19. Students are constantly surrounded by others, and need boosted immunity to protect them from new, more contagious variants of the virus.
A policy requiring students to receive updated COVID-19 boosters would be a logical continuation of WC’s previous COVID-19 protocols. Over the past two years, WC held virtual classes, instituted mask mandates, and required vaccines at different points in time. These policies are all effective ways to protect the campus community. WC strives to create a safe and educational environment, and taking proper COVID-19 precautions is a large part of that in the current climate.
Additionally, the possibility of annual COVID-19 vaccines raises another issue: a financial one. Will the government continue to provide COVID-19 vaccinations free of charge, or will citizens need to pay for their boosters in the future?
The government is covering the most recent booster, but this may not be the case in the future. A price tag attached to future COVID-19 boosters will likely lead to less vaccinations and a population that is far less equipped to deal with new variants. If citizens must pay for their boosters, these shots will be added to the ever-growing list of medical treatments Americans struggle to pay for each year.
According to a study by the National Library of Medicine, “16.9% of Americans report at least 1 financial barrier [while seeking medical care]” and many are “likely to avoid care due to cost.”
The cost of healthcare in the United States is already an issue, and without a change in attitude towards the price of medical care, the lasting effects of the COVID-19 pandemic will only exacerbate this issue.
As for WC students, who may already struggle with financial issues, putting a price on the vaccine will only deter students from receiving it. Future errors when it comes to handling COVID-19 vaccines, including making the vaccines optional or charging money for them, will increase risks on campus. One hopes that, moving forward, the WC’s Response Team and the CDC consider the long-term effects of required and possibly pricey vaccines.
Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
Photo Caption: The CDC has approved a new COVID-19 booster that directly targets the Omicron variant. Many WC students wonder if they should get the booster or not.