Bates College is not requiring students to get a COVID-19 vaccine booster. Steve Collins/Sun Journal

LEWISTON – At least for now, Bates College is not following the lead of nearby Bowdoin College in requiring students and staff to be both vaccinated and boosted before the winter semester begins in January.

Bates has mandated that students receive vaccines for COVID-19, but stopped short of insisting that faculty and staff do the same. It is not insisting on boosters for anyone.

In total, more than 98% of the Bates community is immunized, college officials said, providing a shield that minimizes new cases of the deadly disease and vastly reduces the chances of someone becoming severely ill.

“We were successful in managing through COVID-19 this past semester, as a result of our exceptionally high vaccination rate,” Joshua McIntosh, the college’s vice president for campus life, told students Monday.

Joshua McIntosh, vice president for campus life at Bates College. Submitted photo

He also strongly urged them to get the vaccine booster over winter break, but did not require them to do so.

“There is good evidence” that protection from the vaccine wanes over time, “and the booster is necessary to reset protection at a high level,” McIntosh told students.

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Forty-six Bates students tested positive for COVID-19, at some point, during the fall semester. The highest numbers turned up after Thanksgiving, when at one point, 13 students had the disease.

Bowdoin President Clayton Rose last week also cited the success of the vaccine in protecting its college community during the fall semester.

But Rose also told students and staff that if they’re eligible for a booster shot, they are required to get one.

Bates stopped short of that, though McIntosh said the Lewiston college will ask its 2,000 students to provide booster information starting in February.

In general, he told students, “you should anticipate the winter semester to be similar to the fall semester with regard to public health policies.”

Decisions about how much testing the college will insist on will made before the next semester begins, he said, after seeing what is going on with the coronavirus in the weeks ahead.

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“We will adjust our policies when it makes sense to do so,” McIntosh said. Given the uncertainties connected to the pandemic, he said, “students coming to campus for the winter semester should do so with the understanding that our public health policies may need to become more restrictive.”

“We certainly hope this is not the case, but as we have seen with the delta variant and the emerging omicron variant, it is difficult to predict the next six months,” he said.

McIntosh added a thank-you to students, “for a remarkably successful fall semester. It has been great to see so many aspects of the student experience come back to life over the past few months.”

“I know that the necessary ongoing public health policies can sometimes feel onerous, but it is thanks to your diligence that we are able to mitigate transmission on campus,” he said.

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