UMass Amherst, Hampshire College mandate booster shots for students

  • Kenedy Petersen, a UMass student employee, waits to register people for Covid testing at the UMass testing site at the Mullins Center earlier this year. GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

Staff Writer
Monday, December 13, 2021

AMHERST — University of Massachusetts students will be required to get COVID-19 booster shots prior to the Jan. 25 start of the spring semester.

In addition, Hampshire College is joining UMass in requiring that all students and employees receive a COVID-19 vaccine booster shot as soon as they become eligible, said Jennifer Crisler, the college’s chief advancement officer.

The UMass mandate for boosters, and a COVID-19 test 10 to 14 days prior to classes beginning, are among protocols announced by Chancellor Kumble R. Subbaswamy in a letter sent to students Wednesday.

“Our goal is to provide a safe and robust student experience upon our return to campus in the spring,” Subbaswamy wrote. “In accordance with the existing requirement that students be fully immunized against COVID-19, all students will be required to receive a COVID-19 vaccine booster shot.”

The letter notes that booster shots for people 18 and older are recommended by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Those who were previously granted exemptions from vaccinations for medical or religious reasons will continue to be required to test twice weekly during the spring semester. Other students will have to be tested once before returning to campus, and may also be asked to be part of adaptive testing, where they are randomly selected to participate, during the semester.

Crisler, of Hampshire College, said its policy “is consistent with the current requirement that students and employees be fully immunized against COVID-19, and will help us maintain the safest possible campus environment,” Crisler said.

The Hampshire College deadline to get booster shots is March 21, with students and employees with approved medical or religious exemptions not required to do so. Hampshire will also continue weekly COVID-19 testing and its indoor mask mandate, with certain exceptions.

Mount Holyoke College spokeswoman Christian Feuerstein wrote in an email that the college doesn’t have a booster vaccination mandate at the moment. “However, we hope all who are eligible for booster shots will obtain them as soon as possible,” Feuerstein wrote.

Feuerstein added that the college’s Health & Safety Team is continuing to review Mount Holyoke’s current requirements, with updates to be announced before the spring semester.

Similarly, Amherst College doesn’t have a college-wide booster requirement, but college spokeswoman Caroline Hanna wrote in an email that a recent campus booster clinic was so popular that all slots were taken.

“Since COVID-19 continues to evolve, especially now with the presence in the U.S. of the Omicron variant, we are actively discussing what the protocol will be and will let our community know as soon as decisions are made,” Hanna wrote.