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EDITORIAL: Rutgers rightly mandates booster, but improved testing protocol is needed

Rutgers' booster mandates are a necessary precaution in the face of increased viral spread

Rutgers' mandated booster must come with more available testing. – Photo by Rutgers.edu

We have lived through four semesters’ worth of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, and still, Rutgers is forced to make decisions with COVID-19 in mind. We are not allowed back on campus for at least two weeks as classes designed for in-person instruction shift online yet again.

More importantly, Rutgers has asked that all students get boosters before classrooms reopen. While some might grumble about getting another jab, the only real cost is the awkward conversation you will have with the pharmacist while pulling up your shirt sleeve — a small price to pay for boosted immunity to a disease that currently has put approximately 20,000 people in the hospital daily.

The booster mandate opens the door to more than a few questions. Was this the right decision for Rutgers students? Are these measures enough? And how many more COVID-19 boosters will be mandated in the future?

While we might not have exact answers, we can firmly say that booster mandates at Rutgers were absolutely necessary but not sufficient to keep students and faculty safe. As for mandates in the future, that remains anyone’s guess.

Boosters mandates were the natural next step in Rutgers COVID-19 policy, especially considering the recent omicron spike. While it may seem that after a two-step vaccine boosters will not change much, “boosters can help combat diminishing neutralizing antibody responses,” according to Medical News Today.

In fact, Rutgers is not alone in the decision to mandate boosters. “As of (Dec. 19, 2021), 8 of the top 20 colleges on Forbes 2021 Best Colleges list had indicated that they would require students to have received a booster before returning to campus next year,” according to Forbes.

With immunity waxing and waning both among those who have contracted COVID-19 and those fully vaccinated, the booster serves as an extra layer of protection. Dr. Albert Shaw at Yale Medicine said that “If you are re-exposed to something (via a booster shot, that follows the original exposure by vaccination), the memory response is even more vigorous than the original,” which means that, post-booster, you become much more immune.

But do not mistake higher immunity for absolute protection. As we saw in December, even those of us who are vaccinated can contract, and by extension spread, COVID-19. Therefore, Rutgers must offer testing on campus when we return.

Students have been asking for testing for the better part of a semester, yet Rutgers has not made testing widely available. Hypothetically, the health centers can help with testing, but Rutgers should be doing more to make testing widely available for students.

As of last September, “Rutgers has not been allowing fully vaccinated students and employees to receive (COVID-19) testing as part of its weekly testing program," The Daily Targum reported, which is entirely counterproductive. If student and faculty safety is a priority and vaccinations do not guarantee immunity, individuals may still need to know if they are COVID-19 positive.

As for future boosters, they remain on the table but that is a decision that will have to be made with new COVID-19 numbers in mind. After all, the decision to mandate a booster came after significant research and thought on the part of Rutgers administrators.

Before mandating the booster, Holloway said that “the scientific community has not yet reached a consensus on the type and level of vaccine booster dose that is most effective against COVID-19, so the University cannot mandate them at this time,” according to the Targum.

The scientific community, it seems, is still divided on the need for additional shots, but, “vaccine makers have long insisted that we’ll likely need annual shots at least,” according to The Atlantic. That said, the article goes on to explain that more vaccines are not always the answer. There is an immunity sweet spot that needs to be reached and not surpassed.

The COVID-19 conundrum continues to confound Rutgers administrators and health officials alike, requiring policy decisions that change from month to month. We hope that Rutgers will change its on-campus testing policy, for everyone’s benefit, and continue to make decisions in the best interest of the student and faculty populations, the booster mandate being one of these decisions.


The Daily Targum's editorials represent the views of the majority of the 153rd editorial board. Columns, cartoons and letters do not necessarily reflect the views of the Targum Publishing Company or its staff.


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