By: Jonathan Levin  | 

YU Suspends Booster Requirement for Most Undergraduate and Graduate Students

Yeshiva University’s COVID-19 booster requirement has been suspended for most undergraduate and graduate students and all employees, the university’s COVID-19 response team announced in an email July 11.

Citing medical research on the limited effectiveness of boosters in preventing infection, the COVID Team announced the immediate suspension of the booster requirement for all students expected to remain on the Wilf and Beren Campuses for classes. The booster requirement remains for students whose studies require off-campus work.

“The most recent data from the medical establishment, informed by available studies, show that while booster shots are effective and strongly recommended to prevent serious illness and hospitalization, they appear to offer little added protection against contracting or spreading the virus once someone has received the original vaccination dose(s),” the COVID Team stated in their email.

The booster requirement remains for undergraduate students majoring in education at Stern College for Women (SCW), Cardozo and Ferkauf graduate students, Wurzwieler students attending on-campus programs and Katz School of Science and Health students enrolled in allied health programs or attending classes on Albert Einstein College of Medicine’s campus. Students in these programs are expected to do fieldwork or externships in off-campus settings and the Albert Einstein College of Medicine requires a booster.

“The decision was made by YU’s medical director and a committee of professionals who reviewed medical research before coming to this decision,” Associate Dean of Students Joe Bednarsh told The Commentator. All undergraduate and graduate deans participated in the process as well.

“The Yeshiva University Faculty Council, which serves to include the university’s various faculty bodies in creating academic and governance policies, was not consulted or involved in this decision,” co-chairs Gabriel Cwilich and Abraham Ravid told The Commentator. As of publishing, the council has yet to meet or take a position on this.

In January, shortly after YU announced a booster requirement for the spring 2022 semester, an online petition gathered over 1,400 signatures calling for the requirement’s cancellation. In response, the university organized a zoom call with its medical director, Dr. Robert Van Amerongen, to reassure parents and students.

On July 11, Yishai Kornwasser, the petition’s creator, declared victory in an update posted to the petition’s page. (No student contacted by The Commentator in the original article about the petition knew who Kornwasser was or whether it was a pseudonym.) “While rescinding the booster requirement is clearly a full-throated admission of bad policy,” Kornwasser wrote, “the administration has not yet apologized for coercing their students into taking it. But the students — and their parents — haven’t forgotten.”

Some professors felt that the decision’s timing was ill-advised. 

Gabriel Cwilich, a physics professor at YC, told The Commentator that “I, as an individual, would have perhaps waited until a couple of weeks before the semester starts to make a policy change, as opposed to deciding this in the middle of the summer, particularly because circumstances change almost daily and new and elements might inform the decision better then.” 

Abraham Ravid, a professor and chair of SSSB’s finance department, agreed. “My personal view is that cost benefit analysis dictates a very cautious return to normalcy given the state of the pandemic.  Relatively low-cost preventive and protective measures can pay big dividends in terms of health and money.” (Cwilich and Ravid, who are both co-chairs of the Yeshiva University Faculty Council, informed The Commentator that these views are their own and don’t represent the council.)

Some students had mixed reactions to YU’s decision. “I am very happy Yeshiva University made this decision, which is great for new freshmen and students coming from yeshiva,” said Isaac Nahmias (SSSB ‘25). “Unfortunately, many students such as myself were not given a choice whether to get a booster or not. At least new students can have this freedom.”

Bednarsh told The Commentator that if the situation changes, YU would reconsider the booster requirement. “Certainly, if the dynamics of the virus shift or other relevant details emerge, we would reevaluate,” Bednarsh said. 

Students are still required to get two doses of the Moderna and Pfizer vaccine or one dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. According to YU’s website, other vaccines approved by the World Health Organization (WHO) are also acceptable. 

Other colleges in New York still require students to receive boosters, including NYU, Columbia University, and the CUNY system.

YU is currently assessing its testing policy for next semester.


Photo Caption: YU has suspended its booster mandate for most students

Photo Credit: The Commentator