Cornell announces booster requirement for spring semester

Provost Michael Kotlikoff, Vice President for Student and Campus Life Ryan Lombardi and Vice President and Chief Human Resources Officer Mary Opperman issued the following statement Dec. 21:

Thank you for your collective efforts adjusting to our Alert Level Red status. We know this was an incredibly difficult end of the semester for students, especially with the abrupt change to finals. And we are incredibly appreciative of faculty and staff working around the clock supporting students in county-mandated isolation. Our campus community continues to demonstrate remarkable resilience during this long and frustrating pandemic.

Preparations for the spring 2022 semester are underway. Scenario planning is evolving quickly due to the Omicron variant, and we are focused on how we can protect our community, and the greater Ithaca community, from serious illness related to the virus. As Dr. Anthony Fauci M.D. ’66 noted just last week, recent studies indicate that Moderna and Pfizer boosters are likely to offer substantial protection against the highly-transmissible Omicron variant. We also now have direct experience with the ability of that variant to infect vaccinated members of our community, but – importantly – to infect boosted individuals at a far lower rate.

Because the Omicron variant spreads so readily among vaccinated individuals, and booster vaccinations markedly increase immunity directed against the variant, Cornell will require all students, faculty and staff to have a COVID-19 vaccine and booster as part of comprehensive vaccination against this virus. The booster requirement must be met by Jan. 31, or 30 days after you become eligible, and proof of booster must be uploaded to the Daily Check. Those not in compliance will be subject to appropriate action.

Currently, individuals are eligible for a booster shot six months after they have received their second vaccine dose (Moderna and Pfizer) and two months after they have received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. The CDC has recently updated its recommendations for COVID-19 vaccines and urges individuals to receive an mRNA COVID-19 vaccine or booster (Moderna or Pfizer) when possible. Anyone eligible for a booster may receive Moderna or Pfizer, regardless of their previous immunizations. We have updated the vaccination FAQ on the COVID-19 website to reflect the new booster requirement.

Since the start of the pandemic, we have followed the science in charting our response to the virus. And the science shows that vaccination remains the single most important tool for preventing severe illness. Vaccines followed by boosters are even more protective than the vaccine alone, especially given the rapid spread of the Omicron variant among vaccinated populations. We must do all we can to minimize this spread and protect the most vulnerable among us from serious illness and hospitalization.

There are many opportunities to learn from our recent surge in cases, both in terms of our preparedness for any future variants, and the manner in which the virus continues to impact our campus and the world. We will work earnestly over the coming weeks to devise an approach to next semester that is both safe and sustainable, understanding that as we approach the two-year anniversary of the pandemic, we are all depleted from its impact.

Thank you for your shared commitment to keeping Cornell, Ithaca, and all of our communities safe and healthy.