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SOU won’t require COVID-19 booster shots for now

FILE - This Wednesday, Dec. 23, 2020 file photo shows a vial of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski, File)
University will continue watching coronavirus trends, state guidance before deciding on more vaccine requirements

Students, faculty and staff at Southern Oregon University are not required to have the coronavirus booster shot as soon as they are able, but officials at the Ashland school haven’t completely turned down the idea.

Joe Mosley, SOU’s director of community and media relations, informed the Mail Tribune of the school’s stance a day after the University of Oregon’s president told his campus community everyone would have to be boosted.

“All along, throughout the pandemic, we’ve always left the door open for any possibility, because the pandemic has proven that just about anything is possible,” Mosley said. “We’re just paying close attention to developments, and if that’s something that needs to be considered, the appropriate people will take a look at it.”

Those officials include the school’s leadership, the Incident Management Team, the Student Health and Wellness Center, and Human Resources — all of whom are “tracking omicron and other pandemic developments daily,” according to Mosely.

He was referring to the new variant of coronavirus that health experts warn is more contagious than any other strain of COVID-19 — and that hospitalizations could rise in a new virus wave. The Oregon Health Authority reported the state’s first three omicron cases last week.

OHA issued an advisory Tuesday encouraging all residents who are able to get a free COVID-19 vaccination or booster dose “ahead of an expected surge in cases due in part” to the newest variant of the virus.

Last week, Gov. Kate Brown and state health officials also urged Oregonians to get booster shots immediately.

It was, in fact, “in support of this public health guidance and to protect our community,” that University of Oregon President Michael H. Schill issued a statement Monday about the need for everyone on campus to get boosted.

“We encourage all who are eligible to add getting their booster shot to their winter break to-do list,” Schill wrote.

Details about deadlines to get the booster, and how to upload documentation of the shot, would be announced soon, the university president wrote.

Those who wish to participate in in-person learning at SOU are required to get vaccinated against COVID-19. According to Mosley, 94% of employees and 93% of students learning in-person are vaccinated.

“That gives us a solid foundation on which to begin winter term, and we are planning for primarily normal, in-person operations,” he wrote.

Winter term starts Jan. 3, according to SOU’s academic calendar.

Mosley added that while SOU is not requiring anyone to get a COVID-19 booster, it is “paying close attention to measures being taken by other institutions in situations similar to ours.”

The news coming from the University of Oregon in Eugene did not surprise him.

“I think every school is looking at their own situation and deciding what is best for them, and I’m sure that’s what happened at the U of O,” Mosley said.

Reach reporter Kevin Opsahl at 541-776-4476 or kopsahl@rosebudmedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @KevJourno.