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RI HEALTH

Rhode Island colleges and universities to require booster shots before spring semester starts

PC students will also be required to provide a negative point-of-origin test result within five days of returning to campus.

Brown University's campus in Providence, Rhode Island.Jonathan Wiggs/Globe Staff

PROVIDENCE — Providence College on Monday became the latest to announce that faculty, staff and students will be required to get the COVID-19 booster.

Providence College’s announcement came about two weeks after Brown University and Salve Regina University became the first in Rhode Island to require booster doses. Since then, Roger Williams University, Bryant University, Johnson & Wales University, the New England Institute of Technology, the University of Rhode Island, Rhode Island College and the Rhode Island School of Design have also decided to require booster shots. That represents the state’s flagship public school and all its private institutions.

PC students will also be required to provide a negative point-of-origin test result within five days of returning to campus.

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“The college is implementing these measures to build on the successes of the fall semester and to help maintain the elements of an in-person academic and community student experience in the face of health and safety challenges related to the COVID-19 coronavirus, especially the Omicron variant,” the college said in an emailed statement.

The first day of classes at PC is Jan. 18. The college said the deadline to get a booster will be Feb. 1, but it’s encouraging everyone to do so as soon as possible. The college will have booster clinics on campus Jan. 19 and Jan. 21. People are eligible for booster shots six months after their primary Moderna or Pfizer doses, and two months after a Johnson & Johnson dose.

The college does recognize medical and religious exemptions, and they’ll be exemptions from the booster requirement, too.

According to Dan Egan, the president of the Association of Independent Colleges and Universities of Rhode Island, all the private institutions in the state now have a booster dose requirement.

“With some of the highest vaccination rates in the country, our institutions continue to lead with COVID-19 mitigation best practices that help keep the campuses and the broader community safe,” Egan said in a written statement.

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Not every institution’s rules in Rhode Island are the same. For example, RISD will require students to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and get a booster shot, but does not currently require faculty and staff to get vaccinated. It does, however, require faculty and staff to disclose whether they’ve been vaccinated. New England Tech also did not require faculty and staff to get vaccinated. Nevertheless, both institutions have reported high vaccination rates among their workers.

Some public and private colleges in Massachusetts will also require students, staff, and faculty to receive a booster vaccine for the spring semester.

Bentley University, Boston College, Emerson College, and the University of Massachusetts Amherst confirmed their new requirements last week. Northeastern University announced on Thursday it would also update its safety requirements to include booster shots for all faculty, staff, and students.

Brown was the first university in Rhode Island to announce a booster requirement, which was announced a day after the Globe reported that school officials were “strongly considering” a booster mandate.

All Brown students and employees, which include faculty, staff, postdoctoral scholars, visiting researchers, lecturers and seasonal and intermittent staff, will have to receive their booster shot no later than Jan. 26, 2022. The announcement came Dec. 14.

In an e-mail to Brown community members, executive vice president of policy Russell C. Carey and vice president of campus life Eric Estes wrote that as the university looks forward to the winter break amid increasing cases in Rhode Island and emerging information regarding the Omicron variant, it was clear to them to take additional steps ahead of spring.

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“We understand the fatigue that has developed around the pandemic and the continued necessity of health and safety measures. The virus, unfortunately, does not care about our fatigue and continued vigilance is required,” they wrote. “The good news is that vaccines, boosters, advances in treatment, and basic common sense public health measures are highly effective at preventing this disease, and we enter 2022 in a profoundly different place than at the beginning of this pandemic.”

More than 99 percent of all students at Brown have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 as of Oct. 27, which was the university’s last count. Earlier this year, university officials announced they would require all students and staff to be fully vaccinated unless they were approved for a medical or religious exemption.

Hours after Brown’s announcement, on the afternoon of Dec. 14, Salve Regina officials sent an e-mail to students and employees that said they will be required to get a booster shot by March 1. Exemptions will be given for medical or religious reasons, said the e-mail, which was obtained by the Globe.

Also ahead of the spring semester, all students will be required to have a negative COVID-19 test prior to arriving on campus or attending an in-person class, regardless of their vaccination status.

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Alexa Gagosz can be reached at alexa.gagosz@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @alexagagosz and on Instagram @AlexaGagosz. Brian Amaral can be reached at brian.amaral@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @bamaral44.