BUFFALO, N.Y. — After implementing a vaccine mandate for New York state colleges and universities in August 2021, Gov. Kathy Hochul announced on New Year's Eve plans for SUNY and CUNY campuses to safely reopen that now require all students regularly accessing these institutes to receive a COVID-19 booster shot by Monday, Jan. 24, or within seven days of eligibility for those who are not yet able to receive the booster.
Students who received religious exemptions for the vaccine will not be required to receive the booster.
While this additional requirement has spawned mixed reactions, Chloe Mokadam, a SUNY Buffalo State student who received her M.S. in biology last year and is currently pursuing an M.S. in science education, is in support of the booster mandate. She said it will help protect against newer coronavirus variants.
“Omicron, for example, has a bunch of mutations on the spike protein that allows it to get into your cells," Mokadam said. "That means it can overwhelm your existing immunity. So the booster helps age your immunity to counteract the mutations that the virus has accumulated.”
With Buffalo State being an open and urban-engaged campus, Mokadam said the booster is especially necessary in promoting safety both on campus and in the surrounding community.
“If you look at the demographics of our school, a lot of people are coming from New York City,” she said. “We have a lot of international students. That means you have a lot of exposure to the virus and a lot of potential exposure for students, even as they’re just making their way back to campus for the semester.”
In addition to the booster mandate, universal indoor masking (regardless of vaccination status), social distancing enforcements, and mandatory pre-testing before each semester will also be required. Because the effects of the virus remain unpredictable, the governor’s office says the guidance to state campuses are to ensure the safety of all students, faculty and staff, as even college-aged students and the fully vaccinated have proven to be susceptible to the virus.
“There are 80-year-olds who walk out of the hospital fine; there are 30-year-olds who go into the hospital who never come back,” Mokadam said. “So you can’t count on your youth or on your immune system. You could be really strong, healthy, a runner, and get horrible effects from COVID. You could get really, really ill from COVID.”
As of now, the booster mandate appears to apply only to students, but faculty at SUNY and CUNY institutes are required to be fully vaccinated.