Please review the below list of frequently asked questions about the COVID vaccine requirement.
Frequently Asked Questions - COVID Vaccine & Booster
For more information about the COVID-19 Vaccine Booster Shots, we encourage you to visit the CDC's information page.
You should upload proof of vaccine to your Student Health Portal. Visit washcoll.studenthealthportal.com and log in with your Washington College SSO. From there, follow the instructions to upload the vaccine card. Please note that if you have already submitted a copy of your vaccine card to Health Services then you do NOT need to re-submit that documentation through the Student Health Portal.
Most pharmacy retailers (Rite Aid, CVS and Walgreens) as well as grocery stores now have vaccine supplies. Visit their websites for more information and to schedule an appointment. Your local Health Department is also a good resource for locating vaccines.
Locally, Chester River Pharmacy is offering the vaccine, so for any students who live in the Chestertown area and need a booster shot, this is a good option.
If you live outside of the United States and have questions about getting vaccinated, please check your local government’s resources or work with Health Services.
Yes, Washington College will comply with all federal and state laws around exemptions for medical or religious reasons. The exemption request form must be completed and uploaded to the Student Health Portal. Students who got the vaccine but have reason to request an exemption for the booster should follow this same process.
Once an exemption request has been submitted to Health Services, it will go through a formal review process. That process include:
- Formal review by a committee
- Committee decision is communicated in writing using the original request form, and sent back to the student
- All decisions are final
Washington College will comply with all federal and state laws around exemptions for medical or religious reasons. Students who received the vaccine but now wish to apply for an exemption for the booster must follow this process noted in the above question.
No, your exemption is good for one full year and covers the COVID booster shot. If we already have that on file, you do not need to submit another exemption request.
All individuals who are 18 years old and 6 months past their original vaccination date for Pfizer/Moderna or 2 months past the original vaccination date for J&J are eligible for a booster shot.
We continue to encourage everyone to get vaccinated/boosted as soon they are eligible, as there is evidence that protection from the virus begins to wane about 6 months after vaccination. The CDC also updated its recommendations with a preference for people to receive an mRNA vaccine (Pfizer or Moderna).
All enrolled students (unless they have an approved exemption) are required to receive the booster before the start of classes on January 24.
You are not eligible to receive a booster until you are 6 months past the window for a Moderna or Pfizer vaccine and 2 months past the window for J&J, so we do not expect you to be able to provide documentation before that window of time arrives. If you are not yet outside of the 6 or 2 month timeframe of your original vaccine, you also meet Washington College’s requirements for exemption from regular surveillance testing and will therefore not be required to participate in the testing program during this time period. Once you exceed that 6-month window, you will be required to enroll and participate in the regular testing until you have a vaccine card on file that includes the booster.
Official guidance on this is that you need to be fully recovered from the illness (for symptomatic cases) and past the criteria for being released from isolation (for either symptomatic or asymptomatic cases). A symptomatic individual who is postive for COVID should self-isolate for 10 days from the start of symptoms with resolution of fever for at least 24 hours (without the use of fever-reducing medications) and with improvement of other symptoms. An asymptomatic indidivual who is positive for COVID should self-isolate for 10 days from the date of testing.
Once you have satisfied both of these, you are free to receive the booster.
Vaccines are readily available in the United States, so any US students should be able to secure an appointment to get vaccinated before the start of the spring semester. For international students, if you can get it at home, you should. If you have questions about whether or not the vaccine available to you meets the College’s requirement, please contact Health Services at Health_Services@washcoll.edu. If you reside outside the United States and are unable to get vaccinated over the winter break due to limited supply or another reason, we will certainly work you to help secure a vaccine appointment for you upon your arrival to campus – please work with Health Services on this. In this case, you should expect to go through a quarantine period once you arrive on campus. Further details will be communicated with you directly from the Health Services team.
We can first share that the large majority (an estimated 90%) of our faculty and staff are vaccinated and we are collecting data now on those who have received the booster. We have good data on this because we requested that they share their documentation with us.
The primary difference between these groups is that our students are living together in a congregate setting. This is where we feel the primary risk is. Staff and faculty can more easily avoid prolonged contact with others; students don’t always have that luxury.
While there is no vaccine mandate in place for employees of the College, any worker (staff, faculty or other) that does not have a vaccine card on file is required to participate in regular surveillance testing.
We generally always have a small number of students who live on campus, or at least attend classes, who cannot get certain required vaccines due to medical contraindications. This will remain the same for the COVID vaccine and now the booster. The vaccine mandate ensures though that we will reach the necessary threshold for herd immunity (85% overall vaccination rate).
Unvaccinated students will be required to participate in a more rigorous COVID testing program in order to live on campus. Unvaccinated students who are exposed to COVID through close contact will also be subject to different quarantine requirements than those who are vaccinated.
The general COVID Code of Conduct will remain the same for both groups in that we will not single out non-vaccinated students. For example, we won’t require that they wear a mask in a situation where a mask mandate in no longer in effect. We will not bar non-vaccinated students from spending time in lounges or other common spaces, or sit in a different seating area in the Dining Hall.
The most notable differences for non-vaccinated students are going to be around the COVID testing program and quarantine requirements in the event of an exposure. Non-vaccinated students will be required to participate in a surveillance testing program. They will also be required to do a full quarantine (7-10 days) in the event they have an exposure and/or are identified as a close contact with someone who tests positive. Vaccinated students will not have to participate in surveillance testing. If they are identified as a close contact of a positive COVID case, they will not be required to quarantine.
We will also strongly encourage non-vaccinated students to voluntarily take additional precautions to further protect them from getting the virus. Since those who are vaccinated can still get – and transmit – the virus, it will be in any unvaccinated student’s best interest to opt into more stringent safety measures to limit their risks.
The need for the various safety measures will be evaluated independently so at this time, we cannot say that having our community vaccinated and boosted will result in no masks. We do know from the fall semester that our high rate of vaccination allowed for a mostly normal in-person semester and we expect that the booster requirement will positively impact the campus in the spring as well. But we will continue to follow the guidance of the CDC and evaluate key indicators and data as we make these decisions.
Non-vaccinated students will be required to enroll in either weekly surveillance testing. Vaccinated students will not have this same requirement. All enrolled students are required to undergo gateway testing.
The flu vaccine is on our recommended vaccine list, but is not required. We took the extra step of requiring that for the Spring 2021 semester because at the start of the semester the COVID vaccine was not yet widely available and we were concerned about seeing both COVID and flu outbreaks on campus at the same time. We do strongly recommend flu shots for everyone in our community and encourage anyone who doesn't yet have a flu shot to get one over the winter break.