On Monday, the University of Rhode Island announced that it will require all students, faculty and staff to receive a booster dose of the COVID-19 vaccine for next semester. 

All URI community members will have to show proof of their vaccination status by Jan. 24, the same day that classes begin for the spring 2022 semester. 

Similar to the original COVID-19 vaccine requirement, the University will accept booster doses from Pfizer, Moderna or Johnson & Johnson. 

According to Ellen Reynolds, the Director of Health Services, the mandate was formally decided upon on Monday, the same day the email regarding this decision was sent out. 

“The [COVID-19] advisory committee has been meeting weekly and we’ve been talking about this for weeks, if not, months,” Reynolds said. “We followed what was happening with booster availability, and with [the omicron variant] coming on the scene in early December. I think, in earnest, we’ve been speaking about it since then.” 

The omicron variant has been making its way across the country, causing cases to rise rapidly. This is one of the main reasons the University is stressing that students receive their booster shots. According to the Rhode Island Department of Health (RIDOH), the state is currently at a high transmission threshold, with there being 726 positive cases per 100,000 people and an overall positivity rate of 5.1 percent. 

Reynolds also said that the positivity rate at URI has been rising since Thanksgiving break. According to the URI COVID tracker, the University has a positivity rate of 3.1 percent, up from 1.9 percent last week. The positivity rate for the University sat just below 1 percent for the majority of the Fall 2021 semester according to Reynolds, giving the University more incentive to reach the vaccine mandate decision. 

Students, faculty and staff who have a religious or medical exemption from the original COVID-19 vaccine will also be exempt from the booster for the same reasons. Unless a person had an allergic reaction to the vaccine, they will not be able to be exempt from the booster mandate. 

Dave Lavallee, URI’s Assistant Director of External Relations and Communications, stated that the vaccine requirement is the same for transfer and new students starting at the University in the spring. 

“We don’t have a huge number of new and transfer students coming in, but we certainly are encouraging everyone to get their boosters,” Lavallee said. 

According to Reynolds, community members who are not vaccinated will have to continue to take place in surveillance testing twice a week. 

Because the CDC recommends a two or six-month space, depending on the vaccine brand, between getting the original vaccine, those who are not eligible to receive their booster until after Jan. 24 will also have to take part in surveillance testing until they are able to get vaccinated. 

Reynolds said the University plans to keep its vaccine clinics available to community members through the spring semester for both COVID-19 booster vaccines and flu vaccines.

“My strongest endorsement right now for students is to yet again lean in, care about themselves and others, and get the mandated booster,” Reynolds said. “We really know it’s going to give us our greatest level of protection coming back together and we want to have as close as possible to a regular spring semester.” 

For more information on COVID-19 mandates and statistics at the University, visit the COVID-19 resource page.