Learning remotely, but NJ college students still required to get COVID booster
The start of classes will be here sooner rather than later on New Jersey college campuses and with it the return of COVID-19 vaccine mandates.
New Jersey's largest colleges, both public and private, including Brookdale, Kean, Monmouth, New Jersey City University, NJIT, Princeton, Rider, Rowan, Rutgers, Seton Hall and Stockdale, will require students to show proof of vaccination in order to attend class on campus.
Monmouth, Montclair, NJIT, Princeton and Rutgers will also require booster shots.
Rutgers students enrolled in fully online degree-granting programs do not need to provide proof of COVID-19 vaccination. However, students enrolled in classes that are fully remote (either synchronous or asynchronous) do need to be vaccinated.
The difference is that remote learners, unlike online degree students, have access to campus grounds
"Students enrolled in remote classes are allowed into campus buildings, can attend in-person recitations, labs and office hours, and other activities," Rutgers spokeswoman Dory Devlin said.
Devlin said Rutgers is following CDC guidelines, which do not recommend a second COVID-19 booster for those under 50. It is recommended for people 12 years and older who are immunocompromised.
"We will continue to follow public health trends and, if necessary, adjust our requirements," Devlin said.
Student fights Rutgers vaccine booster policy
One student who has been vocal in her opposition to Rutgers booster requirement is Sara Razii, of Freehold, who led a protest in 2021 against the school's COVID-19 vaccination mandate. She eventually took the shot but not the booster.
When Razii went to sign up for summer and fall classes she was told that even though she is taking most of her classes online she is considered to be learning remotely and must be boosted. Razii said Rutgers has barred her from classes until she gets boosted.
"There are a lot of students who are barred from online classes who are not speaking up because they're scared of the backlash from their peers or the administration," Razii said. "They told me I need to get the booster even if I told them I'm going to be on my laptop. I'm not even going near the university."
Difficulty with religious exemptions
Razii, who is a Muslim, said that the school has also given her a "hard time" about her request for a religious exemption based on her belief that fetal cells are used to create the vaccine.
UCLA Health said it is a myth that aborted fetal cells are included in the COVID-19 vaccine although Johnson & Johnson used fetal cell lines when developing and producing their vaccine. Pfizer and Moderna also used fetal cell lines to test their vaccines and make sure that they work.
The Vatican has issued a statement saying that it is morally acceptable for Catholics to receive COVID-19 vaccines that have used cell lines from aborted fetuses in their research and production process even though the faith does not endorse the use of cell lines from aborted fetuses.
Women's (and men's) health rights
Razii also believes Rutgers and others are being hypocritical when they support abortions and a woman's right to make choices about their own body even as they require the COVID-19 vaccination.
"The whole 'my body, my choice' argument is very hypocritical because people on the left tend to push that argument but they lose when they push the COVID-19 vaccinations and boosters," Razii said.
Razii said she is not anti-vaccine but anti-mandate and has received the "traditional" childhood vaccines such as small pox and polio.
Rutgers also requires masks to be worn by all students regardless of vaccination status in all indoor teaching spaces, libraries, and clinical settings.
Dan Alexander is a reporter for New Jersey 101.5. You can reach him at email@example.com
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