I am so dismayed to see Princeton taking unsustainable actions at students’ expense by mandating booster COVID-19 vaccination in the spring.

Potentially serious vaccine side effects have been documented for months, particularly after Moderna for young men, Johnson and Johnson for young women, and AstraZeneca for younger people overall. Yes, adverse events are relatively rare. But COVID-19 harms are extremely differentiated by age and comorbidities such as obesity. A risk-stratified approach would minimize harms and maximize benefits from vaccination, and it would live up to Princeton’s renown for nurturing its undergraduates.

Vaccination mandates disregarding immunity from infection or differential risks also have ethical and socio-political costs, from understaffed hospitals to global inequities in vaccine access. Do punitive mandates achieve harm reduction and a more tolerant, just society? Or do they pantomime virtue, taking a further toll on public trust?

Princeton’s policy takes the omicron variant as a serious threat. But which high-quality data have shown this? Vaccine companies’ announcements surely cannot be counted as solid evidence. The omicron variant is already widespread globally. Vaccinated individuals can transmit it. We must accept that COVID-19 will become endemic and minimize its harms as equitably as possible. What are the University’s metrics for dropping its intrusive, punitive COVID-19 measures?

I was privileged to enjoy an education at Princeton that emphasized free inquiry, a compassionate global perspective, and rigorous examination of evidence. I expected far better from my alma mater.

Y. Yvon Wang ’08
Toronto, Ontario, Canada