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Oregon State University, Southern Oregon, other colleges to require COVID-19 booster shots

Although the coronavirus omicron alternative has thrown a wrench into plans for early 2022, most Oregon colleges and universities continue to learn in person and on campus for the upcoming semester starting in January.

However, many universities are considering some changes – such as requiring or encouraging COVID-19 booster shots for students and staff. A university will also delay the in-person start of the new semester in an effort to limit the spread of COVID-19.

Oregon State University announced Tuesday that it will order COVID-19 booster shots for students and staff when eligible in the next semester — either six months after their initial Pfizer or Moderna shots or two months after receiving a single Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

Southern Oregon University also announced a promotion request Tuesday via an email to the campus community.

“As we have done throughout the pandemic, we will follow the science and advice of public health officials and will require that all students, faculty, and staff remain fully immune,” SOU leaders wrote in the letter. “This means receiving a booster dose of COVID-19 as soon as you are eligible.”

Students at Oregon State University line up for a coronavirus test before traveling for Thanksgiving 2020.

Sean Neylon

Also last week, the University of Oregon issued an announcement that it would require students and staff to receive a COVID-19 booster dose. It was the first public institution to do so. The deadline for UO Enhanced Snapshot requirements is January 31, or 30 days after students and staff have qualified.

The rest of Oregon’s public universities have not announced requirements for reinforcements, but many said they are highly encouraged. All public universities have required initial doses of the COVID-19 vaccine for students and staff on campus, or a valid vaccination exemption.

Portland Community College, the state’s largest higher education institution, still operates mostly online and does not require vaccinations for students or staff.

In an Oregon announcement Tuesday, she said that seven public universities in Oregon will all maintain in-person learning for the upcoming semester, which begins January 3.

“Our decision derives from guidance from federal, state, and local health authorities, and is supported by positive signs that Omicron, while highly transmissible, may lead to milder symptoms and fewer cases of severe illness, hospitalization, and death,” the president, in a statement. The university’s decision is intentional. We are aware that classrooms, where students and faculty are vaccinated and wearing face coverings, have not been a significant source of the virus’ spread. We seek to minimize disruption to student learning and experiences and provide predictability to the operations of our faculty and universities.”

Private institutions take precautions before the next semester

Willamette University announced earlier this month that it would impose a “quiet period” for the first two weeks of the new semester, which begins January 10 for most students. In this two-week period, many classes will be moved online, and students will be encouraged to limit in-person activities.

The Oregon Capitol is located directly behind Waller Hall on the campus of Willamette University in Salem, Oregon, Wednesday, August 7, 2019. The small private college was founded in 1842.

The Oregon Capitol is located directly behind Waller Hall on the campus of Willamette University in Salem, Oregon, Wednesday, August 7, 2019.

Rob Manning / OPB

The private university, which formally merged with Pacific Northwest College of the Arts earlier this year, said in a letter to the campus community that a more portable, holiday-travel omicron variant played a role in the “quiet period” decision.

“Given the risk of infection while traveling, this quiet period of low interaction after travel gives us the opportunity to identify any cases before they have a chance to spread widely in our community,” the university’s COVID-19 advisory group wrote.

Willamette said she expects it will require COVID-19 booster shots for the fall 2022 semester, which begins in late August. For now, we highly recommend the use of reinforcements for all students and staff.

Of the larger private institutions, so far only Lewis and Clark College and Pacific University have announced requirements for COVID-19 reinforcements before the upcoming semester.

“All members of the Lewis and Clark community—students, faculty, staff, and staff of our long-term on-campus partners—should receive a COVID booster dose as soon as they are eligible,” the Portland Private College wrote on its COVID-19 response webpage.

The only exceptions are for people who have an approved vaccination exemption, work exclusively, or are educated off-campus.

Pacific University issued a similar announcement, requiring all eligible students and staff to submit proof of booster vaccination by February 11.

“With the rise of the delta and omicron variants of COVID-19, ongoing preventive precautions are essential,” Forest Grove Private University wrote in an on-campus letter, “Vaccination boosters significantly reduce the likelihood of infection in fully vaccinated and hospitalized individuals in Those who are infected.”

Even private institutions that do not require a COVID-19 vaccination, such as George Fox University in Newburgh, are still encouraging students and staff to get vaccinated.

“I fear the pandemic is not over with us yet,” George Fox University vice president of student life Brad Lau wrote in a December 22 letter to undergraduate students.

Lau wrote that the new variant of Omicron is clearly more contagious than the previous variants, although it remains unclear whether it may lead to milder symptoms.

“Either way, we know that the COVID-19 vaccine (and booster) provides powerful protection against severe illness and death,” he wrote. “As such, we strongly encourage you to get vaccinated if you haven’t already, and if you are, get a booster shot during the break.”

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