Dear Pomona College community,
Thank you once again for your help and support in keeping our community safe.
Vaccines are a key component of our public health strategy. Last summer, we required all members of our community to be fully vaccinated and we are proud that 100% of our students and 98% of our faculty and staff received the vaccine as defined by the Centers for Disease Control. Because our community is so highly vaccinated, the number of COVID-19 cases on campus was very low, with positivity rates for students, faculty and staff under 0.5%.
According to the CDC, although COVID-19 vaccines remain effective in preventing severe disease, studies show that this effectiveness wanes over time. In fact, Los Angeles County Department of Public Health recently reported that individuals who are fully vaccinated with boosters are 38 times less likely to be hospitalized than those unvaccinated. However, those whose vaccination is un-boosted are only nine times less likely of avoiding hospitalization than those who remain unvaccinated.
After careful consideration of the data associated with vaccine efficacy over time and the materially significant protection against severe illness and hospitalization associated with boosters, the CDC now states a fully vaccinated individual is “up to date” with the available vaccines when they receive a booster upon eligibility.
Because the vaccines wane over time, our community must act in line with this latest guidance and ensure that, when possible, everyone is up to date with the vaccines. Boosters are a powerful line of defense against the Omicron variant. The more students, faculty and staff who receive a booster, the better protected our community will be from severe illness.
On December 20, we announced that all eligible students, faculty and staff must receive a booster vaccine as recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, and we set a January 18 deadline.
As of January 18, nearly 57% of faculty and staff have received the booster; over 70% of students have received the booster.
Protecting yourself and our community
We understand that many of you have not been able to receive the booster, and some may be considering whether to get boosted at all. We are appealing to your sense of responsibility to yourself, to your colleagues and to our community to get boosted as soon as you are eligible. Public health authorities as well as our own medical advisors have reiterated the importance of boosters and we believe that this approach is key to a successful and safe spring semester.
We are a diverse community in which some of us are immunocompromised, live with a family member who is immunocompromised, or live with small children that are not eligible for the vaccine. So, the vaccine booster is essential not only to our own health, but also to the health of our larger community.
To allow more time, we are extending the booster deadline. Eligible students, faculty and staff are now required to get their booster shot no later than Friday, January 28.
With the new deadline and a collective understanding that boosters are important to the health of our community, we are hoping to see the same vaccination rates for the booster as we did for the underlying vaccine – nearly 100% of our community up to date on their COVID-19 vaccine.
According to the CDC, people are eligible for the booster five months after their last dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines and two months after the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
In addition, the county’s Department of Public Health advises that it is safe for people who have already have COVID to get the vaccine once their isolation period is over.
Students, faculty and staff who are not eligible to receive the booster by Friday, January 28 should do so within seven days of becoming eligible.
We will consider exemption requests for valid medical reasons or sincerely held religious beliefs. Faculty and staff who wish to request a medical or religious exemption from the booster should apply by Friday, January 28.
We will honor those who already have an approved exemption or accommodation related to the COVID vaccines.
Screening testing for COVID-19 is another key part of our public health strategy. All students, and faculty and staff must be tested once per week. (Staff members who work on campus one day per week or less are exempt from this requirement.) We expect this requirement to continue until further notice.
Those members of our community who have an exemption from the vaccine or booster will need to test twice per week.
The COVID-19 Planning and Response Group will assess the College’s progress towards our 100% goal at the end of January and will update the community on the next steps.
Thank you for your support.
The COVID-19 Planning and Response Group
G. Gabrielle Starr, President
Robert Gaines, VP for Academic Affairs and Dean of the Faculty
Fernando Lozano, Professor of Economics and Chair of the Faculty Executive Committee
Jade Star Lackey, Associate Professor of Geology
Hans Rindisbacher, Professor of German
Kenneth Baxter Wolf, John Sutton Miner Professor of History and Professor of Classics
Avis Hinkson, VP for Student Affairs and Dean of Students
Robert Goldberg, VP, Chief Operating Officer and Treasurer
Christina Ciambriello, Chief of Staff to the President and Secretary to the Board of Trustees
Robert Robinson, AVP for Facilities and Campus Services
Pritina Irvin, Coordinator, Office of Alumni and Family Engagement
Alexis Reyes, Assistant Director of Sustainability and Chair of the Staff Council
Selena Gomez, class of 2022
Nathan Tran, class of 2023