The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.
Since 1888
The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.
The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.

UPDATED: Students without COVID-19 booster shot to be tested routinely in Spring 2022

More details regarding the enhanced testing protocol will be announced in early January, but will be contingent upon a student’s booster status.
Booster shot appointment check-in in Light Hall,
Jazlyn Selvasingh
Booster shot appointment check-in in Light Hall, as photographed on Oct. 7, 2021. (Hustler Staff/Jazlyn Selvasingh)

UPDATED: This story was updated on Dec. 22, 2021, at 5:23 p.m. CST to include a Dec. 20 message from Vice Chancellor for Administration Eric Kopstain.

UPDATED: This story was updated on Dec. 21, 2021, at 3:56 p.m. CST to include a Dec. 21 message from Chancellor Daniel Diermeier.

The Vanderbilt community was notified at approximately 4:45 p.m. CST on Dec. 20 via an AlertVU text message that students who have not provided proof of receiving a COVID-19 booster shot will be subject to routine COVID-19 testing in Spring 2022.

The message also states that information regarding “enhanced” testing for the spring semester will be announced by the first week of January. It did not mention updates to protocols for faculty and staff. The university did not immediately respond to The Hustler’s requests for comment about the updated protocols. 

“Please stay safe over winter break,” the text reads. “We encourage you to get your COVID-19 booster if you are eligible.”

In a Dec. 20 letter to staff, Kopstain addressed the omicron variant and impending changes to COVID-19 protocols. He stated that those will without a booster shot will be tested “more frequently” in Spring 2022.

Booster shots are not required for the Vanderbilt community as of publication. In accordance with a Nov. 30 federal court ruling, Vanderbilt’s exemption from Tennessee Senate Bill 9014 was suspended. The bill prohibits schools in Tennessee from mandating vaccines and requiring proof of vaccination, among other stipulations. However, the constitutionality of the bill remains in question after the parents of eight students raised concerns about its potential violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Unlike previous AlertVU messages, students did not receive a phone call or an email with the information included in the text message. AlertVU is typically used for emergency notifications, causing senior Daniel Baisier and other students to be confused about the Dec. 20 message. He said some of his friends did not receive the message.

“It seemed weird that they sent it through AlertVU. It was a strange rollout for sure,” Baisier said. “I think a lot of people had been putting off getting the booster just because they didn’t want to take the time, especially during finals season, so hopefully this gives those people the impetus to just go do it.”

Virtual Town Halls regarding COVID-19 protocols will occur at the beginning of January for faculty, staff and students, per Dec. 20 MyVU updates. The first day of classes for the spring semester is currently still scheduled for Jan. 10, with move-in beginning on Jan. 7.

The Faculty Town Hall will occur on Jan. 7 at 11 a.m. CST, followed by the Staff and Postdoctoral Fellows Town Hall on the same day at 12:30 p.m. CST. The Undergraduate Students and Families Town Hall will occur on Jan. 11 at 5 p.m. CST, and the Graduate and Professional Students Town Hall will occur on Jan. 12 at 5 p.m. CST. 

Diermeier sent an email to the Vanderbilt community on Dec. 21, thanking and expressing gratitude to community members for stepping up and supporting each other during the ongoing pandemic. He encouraged recipients to receive the COVID-19 booster shot but did not mention the testing policy change referenced in the Dec. 20 AlertVU text.

If you have not yet obtained your booster shot and are eligible, I strongly encourage you to do so, Diermeiers email reads. We will continue to work closely with our colleagues at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, the School of Nursing and other public health experts to assess the situation throughout the winter break.

Eligible students, faculty and staff have been able to receive the booster shot from Vanderbilt University Medical Center (VUMC) since Oct. 28. Students can do so at the Student Health Center, while faculty, staff and postdocs can receive it at the Occupational Health Clinic. Both locations are offering Pfizer and Johnston & Johnson vaccines. 

The Dec. 20 AlertVU message comes in the wake of peer universities taking action in response to the increasing prevalence of the omicron variant. As of Dec. 20, Duke University required all students and employees to receive the booster shot by or before January. Harvard University announced on Dec. 18 that it would be transitioning to virtual learning for the first three weeks of January. 

On Dec. 16, Princeton University issued a booster shot requirement and moved final exams online, among other COVID-19 protocol changes. Yale University similarly mandated COVID-19 booster shots for students on Dec. 19, encouraged them to leave campus and announced that final exams would be virtual. Yale’s message also instructed students to take essentials home with them in preparation for a possible virtual start to the spring semester.

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About the Contributors
Rachael Perrotta
Rachael Perrotta, Former Editor-in-Chief
Rachael Perrotta ('24) is from Cranston, R.I., and majored in cognitive studies, communication of science and technology and political science and minored in gender and sexuality studies in Peabody College. She was also previously Senior Advisor and News Editor. If she's not pressing you for a comment, she's probably trying to convince you that she's over 5 feet tall, cheering on the Red Sox or wishing Nashville had a beach. She can be reached at [email protected].
Jazlyn Selvasingh
Jazlyn Selvasingh, Former Staff Writer
Jazlyn Selvasingh ('23) is from Seattle, WA and is majoring in biochemistry in the College of Arts and Sciences. When not writing for The Hustler, Jazlyn loves working on her research projects, going for runs, chilling with her pet turtle and reading/hearing stories.
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