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Morgan is the only Maryland public university not requiring boosters

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By: Jordan D. Brown, The MSU Spokesman

As schools prepare for in-person instruction, several universities have similar COVID-19 guidelines set in place. Many schools have implemented indoor mask mandates, weekly COVID-19 testing and more.

A majority of Maryland’s public universities share the same stances on requiring the third COVID-19 vaccine dose, or booster shot.

The University System of Maryland (USM) implemented a booster shot requirement for on-campus students at the following universities:

  • University of Maryland Global Campus
  • University of Maryland, College Park
    • Booster shot is required for all eligible students and faculty
  • University of Maryland, Baltimore County
    • Booster shot is required for all eligible students and faculty
  • University of Maryland Eastern Shore
  • University of Maryland, Baltimore
  • Towson University
    • Booster shot is required for all eligible students and faculty
  • Salisbury University
    • Booster shot is required for all eligible students and faculty
  • Bowie State University
  • Coppin State University
  • Frostburg State University
  • University of Baltimore

Some individual universities like the University of Maryland decided to require the booster shot for all students, but all of the institutions in the USM are at least requiring the vaccination for residential students.
While the USM only enforced the shot requirement for on-campus students, the system also encouraged all students, faculty and staff to receive the booster as well.

“The CDC indicates that an initial round of vaccination plus a booster shot provides optimal protection against COVID, and the USM strongly encourages all students, faculty, and staff to get a booster as soon as they’re eligible,” the system shared in a press release.

The USM is made up of 11 of Maryland’s 13 public universities; Morgan State University and St Mary’s College of Maryland are not included.

As Morgan and St. Mary’s are not under the education system, the requirement does not apply to the universities. 

However, St. Mary’s decided to implement a booster shot requirement for all students and faculty.

The USM and St. Mary’s booster requirement leaves Morgan as the only public university in Maryland that is not requiring boosters.

Wilson previously stated the university is following guidance from the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in recommending the booster rather than requiring it.

Wilson said, “The CDC is not requiring that individuals receive the booster and we follow the CDC’s advice in strongly recommending it and then showing the benefits of individuals who had received a booster and we hope that students and faculty and staff will heed that advice.”

Earlier this month, Wilson said any decision made throughout the pandemic is subject to change in the future.

“If for example, the variant begins to behave differently, it doesn’t mean that if we begin to see evidence of a serious illness amongst individuals who have received the fully vaccinated that we as a team might not come back together and then require individuals to get the booster,” Wilson said.

While the USM’s booster requirement is for public universities of Maryland, several private universities have similar booster mandates as well.

Hood CollegeJohns Hopkins UniversityLoyola University MarylandMcDaniel CollegeNotre Dame of Maryland, and Stevenson University are requiring the booster shot for all students taking in-person instruction.

Goucher College is not requiring the booster shot, but strongly recommends it like Morgan.

Céline Gounder, Senior Fellow and Editor-at-Large for Public Health for Kaiser Health News at the Kaiser Family Foundation, spoke on the best options for universities to control the spread of COVID-19 on campus.

The American infectious disease physician emphasized the importance of the student body getting two doses of the COVID-19 vaccination rather than the additional booster shot. 

“In a population of college students, I think your priority should be just to get everybody fully vaccinated,” Gounder said. “I think the added benefit of requiring and mandating boosters when we know mandates also—can backfire and further entrench people in not wanting to get vaccinated.”

The USM cited the booster’s extra protection against the virus and the high risk of contracting COVID-19 in university housing as a reason for implementing the vaccine requirement.

The system wrote, “Recent data show that boosters offer added protection against COVID, reducing symptom severity, including in cases of Omicron infection. Our available vaccines shorten the duration of illness and infectiousness, reducing transmissibility and spread in settings such as congregate housing.”

As the booster provides added protection, recent data from the CDC shows a higher chance of COVID-related hospitalization for unvaccinated individuals above the age of 50. The data also shows a slight increase in hospitalizations for those that are fully vaccinated without the additional booster dose. 

According to Gounder, the data for hospitalizations within the 18-to-24 year age range based on the booster vaccination is not as clear.

Gounder said, “There is very good evidence that the booster reduces hospitalizations and deaths in people ages 50 and over. For people under 50, there is not clear data, and the prevention of infection is likely to be, the boost that you get from the booster so to speak, is likely to be transient.”

Gounder said it will take more than mandating the booster shot for universities to safely return to in-person instruction.

“It’s going to depend on vaccination rates in those communities and then it’s all the other layers and being able to suppress transmission,” she added.

She recommended that universities continue their initial vaccination requirement, improve indoor ventilation, and provide higher access to testing.

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