Masters takes action, new booster requirement


Steve Kassell-Yung vaccinates his daughter Cleo, who’s in fourth grade

Gisele Cestaro, News Editor

COVID-19 has reached an all-time high level of cases in the past months, even more than at the beginning of the pandemic. Omicron, the newest, most transmissible variant, is spreading fast and easily throughout schools. People are masking up and starting to take precautions such as receiving their COVID-19 booster shot. The booster is supposed to help the body’s immune system defend itself, and provides extra protection, along with the first two doses of the vaccine. Most officials have sent a strong message to get the booster, and although Masters has required it for all students, faculty and staff, that hasn’t stopped some people from being skeptical about  this vaccine. 

Within several months of receiving the second dose of the vaccine, people were already informed that getting a booster was highly recommended. Mixed feelings arose as not everyone was sure if they should feel a sense of urgency to get another vaccine dose. The Masters School’s Health Advisory Team worked diligently to make a decision they felt was the safest for the community: mandating that all students, faculty and staff get the booster within thirty days of becoming eligible. Individuals were either content with this decision, or concerned as people felt their right to choose was a liberty that was taken away. 

Morgan Young, a junior, and advocate for the booster shot requirement, said she appreciated the mandate.

“The school is doing whatever they can to make sure that we all feel safe, so I believe it’s a right-minded decision,” she said. 

Young said she trusts that this vaccine will push our community forward and hopefully help lighten restrictions in the future; it will also help protect the immuno compromised from becoming more sick. She said she believes we have a long way to go, but the booster shot is one step closer to returning to normal. 

“Having to require the booster shot is necessary for change, but in a sense I understand why people would feel their liberties are being taken away,” she said.

Although some community members are advocates for the booster, there are others who feel that just because the school officials have the power to, doesn’t mean it should be mandated for private institutions. This can be due to a multitude of reasons such as being afraid of the vaccine’s efficacy, especially because it’s been a very short amount of time since the last vaccination requirement. Masters almost has a 100% vaccination rate for the students and faculty, but some people are exempt due to specific medical conditions. 

We felt it was important to try to protect as many people by requiring the booster because that’s the reason why new variants are coming up. There are pockets of people who are vaccinated or sub-optimally vaccinated around the world.

— Steve Kassell-Yung

Mack Hernandez, senior, has strong opinions about how necessary and effective the booster shot really is. Hernandez believes that individuals who are opposed to it in our community, should not have to receive the vaccine, since it is considered infringing on people’s liberties. “I don’t think it’s fair to require it in the first place. It’s really leaving me no choice because it’s taking my liberties and freedom to choose [away],” he said. 

Although Hernandez does not believe it should be mandated, he trusts that a positive factor is how it may help us return to a relative normal. His hope is that the booster shot will help calm people’s nerves in terms of transmitting COVID-19, which means the extra precautions such as plexiglass and masks can start to fade away. “It will hopefully help the administrators be less strict about the rules and make people believe they are more safe. I don’t think it will make a genuine difference in cases though,” he said. One of Hernandez’s concerns, besides being skeptical of the booster, is that nothing has changed for the better. He maintains that if the vaccination is going to be required, the rules should at least be not as strict, but that is not the case. 

Steve Kassell-Yung is a pediatrician and member of the healthcare advisory board which helps the school navigate decisions in regard to COVID-19. He and the health advisory team knew that the science behind the booster showed it was safe enough to require for the school in order to prevent the further spread of disease.

Kassell-Yung went on to explain the importance of vaccinations, and as to why new strains are constantly popping up: “We felt it was important to try to protect as many people by requiring the booster because that’s the reason why new variants are coming up. There are pockets of people who are vaccinated or sub-optimally vaccinated around the world,” he said. He relayed that with the implementation of boosters people will be more protected.

In terms of the Center for Disease Control guidelines (CDC), Masters follows them very closely. Since the CDC prompts most other authorities to develop their guidelines, it can be difficult for the health advisory team because it can take a long time for those recommendations to be put out. They will often try to get a headstart on figuring out what those new regulations will be.“The team tries to forecast what the CDC guidelines are going to be, and then we start preparing to put those out,” Kassell-Yung said. Most private institutions are also following the same practices since school administrators are in contact with one another. 

Although the health advisory team was skeptical of mandating the booster initially, since it could send a mixed signal that the other two doses didn’t work, they knew requiring it was the smarter decision for the school. “The community cares about each individual, which is why we had a feeling that the boosters would be well accepted,” Kassell-Yung said.