Why does Cornell require students to get boosted so quickly after an infection?

Date: January 2022

Question

Hello Deans,

I have a question about Cornell’s booster mandate after recovering from COVID. We were sent an email that all students need a COVID booster by January 31. The email also stated that students who have recovered from COVID should receive a booster two weeks after their symptoms disappear. This is a mighty quick turnaround to get a booster and is far shorter than the 90 days the CDC recommended previously.

I have reached out to Cornell Health and the COVID-19 Support Center. Cornell Health instructed me to reach out to the COVID-19 Support Center, and the COVID-19 Support Center responded with:

“Changed Status from New to Closed.

Hello [Name],
Thank you for writing with your questions about the booster requirement. Per the December 21 campus announcement, Cornell will require all students, faculty, and staff who have not received a medical or religious exemption to have a COVID-19 vaccine and booster as part of comprehensive vaccination against this virus. The booster requirement must be met by January 31, 2022 or 30 days after you become eligible, and proof of booster must be uploaded to the Daily Check.”

Why does Cornell require students to get boosted so quickly after an infection? I am concerned about having a strong immune reaction from a booster. Also, I am a little confused why a booster to an older, now uncommon strain of COVID would provide beneficial immunity after having contracted the most ubiquitous form of COVID.

Thank you very much!

-Concerned about boosters


Response

Dear Concerned about boosters,

Thank you for asking your questions. The advice available on the internet regarding timing of booster shots is certainly highly variable. 

To gain the most current information on the questions that you raised, I contacted Dr. Jada Hamilton, interim medical director/physician at Cornell Health. She informed me that current CDC guidelines state that a person who is eligible for a booster shot may receive that booster as soon as they are cleared from isolation (five days) and are no longer experiencing COVID-19 symptoms. A 90-day wait prior to receiving a booster shot is only recommended if a person has been treated for COVID-19 with monoclonal antibodies.

You can request an exemption from getting the booster if you have a medical reason, which requires documentation from your physician.

Regarding your second question about why you should get a booster based on an older COVID strain after having contracted the currently ubiquitous strain – well, the best I can tell you is that the science is still very much emerging on this point. Preliminary evidence suggests that boosting with either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine provides enhanced protection against reinfection with SARS-CoV-2. We will certainly have much more insight into this point in a month or so. Personally, I am taking as many steps as I can, including getting boosted, to reduce risks for my family and myself.

I sincerely hope this is helpful information for you.

Best wishes,

Kathryn

Kathryn J. Boor
Dean of the Graduate School and Vice Provost for Graduate Education