On Jan. 10, first-year management science and engineering Ph.D. student Monte Fischer launched a petition against Stanford’s booster mandate, which is slated to take effect Jan. 31 and requires all eligible students without a medical or religious exemption to get a COVID-19 booster.
Fischer has since amassed over 2,000 signatures calling on the University to overturn its booster mandate. It is unclear what proportion of the petition’s signees come from the Stanford community.
Similar petitions have also sprung up across the country at schools like the University of Chicago and Cornell University. Each share concerns similar to the ones Fischer laid out in an op-ed published by The Daily.
“The pitch is this: campus is fully vaccinated, well protected against COVID and young. There are harms as well as benefits of getting boosted,” Fischer said. “[Getting the booster] should be an individual choice.”
Booster doses leading to a risk of myocarditis among young men is Fischer’s chief concern. Combined with the fact that young, vaccinated people have a low risk of experiencing a serious case of COVID-19, Fischer said he believes the benefits of a booster shot don’t outweigh the risks.
Even as Fischer’s petition gains traction, Stanford has made no moves to change the mandate. University Spokesperson E.J. Miranda put it simply: “We have seen the petition. Our booster requirement, for students who are eligible, is unchanged.”
Miranda did not explicitly say what the consequences would be for students that are not boosted by Jan. 31. Instead, he said the University would be sharing additional information with the Stanford community shortly.
Fischer is still optimistic that Stanford will overturn its booster mandate before it takes effect Monday. He sees declining COVID-19 cases on campus as proof that a mandate isn’t necessary. Support for the petition from University of California, San Francisco epidemiology professor Vinay Prasad and Stanford Medicine professor Jay Bhattacharya also gives him hope that the petition may succeed.
“Stanford students are spot on in this [petition],” Prasad tweeted on Jan. 14. “Universities have overreacted with boosting mandates for young health[y] people.”
Support for the petition is not unanimous among the University community. When Stanford announced its booster mandate, Emma Neidig ’25 says she felt “relief” and “optimism,” viewing the mandate as a way to ensure the health of students and a safe way to stay on campus.
Miranda concurred, saying the mandate “is intended to support sustained immunity against COVID-19 and is consistent with the guidance of county, state and federal public health leaders and is supported by the findings of various studies.”
Fischer rejects the idea that a booster mandate is necessary to protect students’ health on college campuses — an idea that he called “very popular among elite institutions,” a precedent that he encouraged Stanford to go against.
“All it takes is for Stanford to be the one willing to step up,” Fischer said. “We’re a great school, we have great faculty and this school is devoted to science and the scientific method. We’re capable of making our own decisions — let’s have Stanford recognize that.”