The University of Utah has announced a new vaccination requirement that calls for students to get COVID-19 booster shots to be considered fully immunized.

Students who do not comply by either providing proof of booster vaccination or declaring exemption will have a hold placed on their record that will prevent them from registering for future classes until the requirement is satisfied.

There has been high compliance to the U.’s earlier vaccination requirement — two doses of Pfizer or Moderna or a single dose of Johnson & Johnson. Eighty-four percent of students received their full initial dose or doses of the respective vaccines while 7% are partially immunized, according to the U.’s website. Seven percent students received exemptions and 2% received none or their status is unknown.

U. spokeswoman Morgan Aguilar said recent guidance by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has emphasized that the booster is effective as added protection against the quickly spreading omicron variant.

On Tuesday, state health officials reported nearly 40,000 new cases of COVID-19 since Friday. Hospitalizations are climbing, although fewer patients are occupying intensive care unit beds than in the past.

Dr. Angela Dunn, director of the Salt Lake County Health Department, warned hospitalizations in the state’s most populous county have doubled in the past two weeks.

The University of Utah’s new requirement was put into place as students are starting to think about registering for summer and fall classes.

“We wanted to make sure to announce that with plenty of time for them to get that booster,” Aguilar said.

Booster shots are available at the Student Health Center with appointments and regularly scheduled vaccine events to be held at the Student Union, Aguilar said.

At this point, no other public university or college in Utah is requiring boosters as a condition of registration for upcoming terms but they encourage students to get vaccinated and wear masks indoors, per CDC recommendations.

However, five institutions in the Utah System of Higher Education required vaccination — or exemptions — for registration for the current semester. They included Utah State University, Utah Valley University, Weber State University and Salt Lake Community College.

Rebecca Zitnay, a graduate student working at the Huntsman Cancer Institute, picks up a self-administered COVID-19 test from a vending machine at the Eccles Health Sciences Library on the University of Utah campus in Salt Lake City on Tuesday, Jan. 18, 2022. | Spenser Heaps, Deseret News
University of Utah, USU, Weber State to require COVID-19 vaccination for students

Westminster College “is strongly recommending but not requiring boosters at this point. We had a tremendous response to our vaccine requirement last semester and know many are already choosing to get boosted,” said spokeswoman Arikka Von. According to the private liberal arts college’s website, 98% of its employees and 93% of students were vaccinated as of Jan. 1.

Acknowledging the omicron surge, the college is offering a flexible start to spring semester, meaning classes are being offered in person, online and in combination depending on the needs of students and faculty through Jan. 28.

According to Brigham Young University’s website, the private university “urges students, faculty, staff and campus guests to be vaccinated against COVID-19. Available COVID-19 vaccines have proven to be both safe and effective.”