George Washington University Mandates COVID-19 Booster Shots Amid Omicron Concerns

By Bill Pan
Bill Pan
Bill Pan
December 14, 2021 Updated: December 15, 2021

George Washington University now requires a COVID-19 vaccine booster shot for all eligible members of the campus community, citing recently detected cases of Omicron variant in Washington D.C.

All students, faculty, and staff in university-operated facilities have to get a dose of the COVID-19 booster by Feb. 1, 2022, or be subject to weekly testings and a daily symptom monitoring questionnaire, according to the university’s Dec. 13 message. The booster requirement will not apply to those who currently have a medical or religious exemption to the existing vaccination mandate.

The university also warned that students who do not receive the dose by March 15, 2022, will not be eligible to register for summer or fall classes. Faculty and staff who do not receive a booster by the March deadline will receive a warning message and “subsequent employment actions may take place.”

“The booster requirement aligns with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) recommendation and is part of our ongoing efforts to keep the GW community healthy and safe amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic,” the university said.

The university also noted that its public health team has been conducting genetic sequencing over the past several months, and has found “a very small number” of positive cases of the Omicron variant among the campus community.

“Because of privacy concerns, we are not able to discuss these cases specifically other than to share that the individuals did not travel internationally, which means the Omicron variant is now circulating in the region,” the message reads.

First identified in South Africa, the Omicron appears to be significantly more transmissible but generally causes milder symptoms compared to other variants. As of Dec. 14, the D.C. health department have reported four Omicron cases that have no known connection to one another.

George Washington University is not the first American university to mandate COVID-19 vaccine boosters. In New York, Syracuse University announced on Dec. 6 that it will require all eligible students, faculty and staff who routinely access any Syracuse campus location or facility “to receive a booster shot prior to the start of the spring semester, or as soon as they become eligible.”

“Although the COVID-19 vaccines continue to perform well in terms of limiting serious illness and hospitalizations, breakthrough cases continue to occur,” the announcement read. “In addition, the uncertainty associated with the omicron variant requires that the University act proactively to ensure a safe return to campus in January.”

Several institutions in Massachusetts, including Boston College, Northwestern University, University of Massachusetts-Amherst, and Emerson College, are asking students to get their booster shots before the spring semester begins. In Connecticut, Wesleyan University also requires boosters for students returning or coming to campus in spring 2022.

Bill Pan