George Mason University Should End Its Booster Mandate

Press Release | Robert Fellner

A petition calling for a repeal of George Mason University’s booster mandate was sent earlier today to GMU President Gregory Washington, Rector James Hazel and the entire GMU Board of Visitors.

Created just last week, the petition has already garnered the support of over 500 GMU community members. The more than 500 signatories include students and their parents, faculty and staff, and even GMU alumni, all of whom are united in opposition to the just-announced booster mandate. The mandate was first announced in an e-mail sent late on New Year’s Eve by GMU President Gregory Washington, who ordered all staff and students to receive a booster shot within the next 45 days.

Timing of mandate denies students’ right to make a choice free of coercion

The petition is especially critical of the timing and implementation of the mandate, which denies GMU students and staff the ability to make a free and informed choice.

“Threatening students with the financial harm associated with being expelled from school midway through the year is pure coercion that makes free and voluntary consent to the mandate impossible,” said Robert Fellner, a first-year law student at George Mason University’s Scalia Law School who helped organize the petition.

Mandate fails to provide critical information necessary to make an informed decision

The petition also notes that the mandate makes no mention of the risks associated with a third dose, particularly for the many GMU students who have both recovered from Covid and received two doses of the vaccine already, and all within the past 12 months. There exists a substantial body of evidence that those who received the vaccine after having been previously infected experience adverse side effects at an increased rate.

Conversely, these students receive little to no benefit from the booster, as they face essentially no risk whatsoever from Covid given their existing protection. According to vaccine manufacturer Pfizer, administering boosters to a million people in this cohort would not prevent a single Covid-related death. The company similarly forecasted a near-zero reduction in serious illness, reflecting the fact that a booster cannot meaningfully reduce a level of risk that is already at or near zero.

Mandate exposes healthy, already vaccinated students to unnecessary risks

While this already vaccinated cohort faces the lowest risk from Covid—a risk so low that it is comparable to the risk associated with the common cold—they are at the highest risk of vaccine-induced side effects. Specifically, instances of hospitalization from heart inflammation caused by the vaccine occurs at a rate of at least 1 per 10,000 for males between the age of 16-29. More recent studies have found that figure to be much higher. An analysis by Kaiser Permanente found a rate of around 1 per 2,000. Meanwhile, the rate of hospitalization due to Covid for this cohort is less than 1 per 100,000, according to the most recent data from the CDC.

“As someone who has recently recovered from Covid and has already received the Covid vaccine, the data makes clear that getting another shot this soon fails a basic cost-benefit test, as the potential risks are greater than the benefits,” said first-year Scalia Law Student Cory Jack.

Fellner agreed, and added that, “It is important that Rector Hazel and President Washington address the concerns of the hundreds of GMU community members who have signed the petition.

“As I learned at George Mason University, medical treatment can only be given once a person has freely agreed to the treatment, informed of the implications and risks, and without coercion. By coercing students into receiving an unwanted and unnecessary booster shot, GMU is acting unethically and in violation of the doctrine of informed consent,” Fellner continued. “That this third dose will be a net harm for at least some students makes the mandate truly unconscionable.”


Robert Fellner is a first-year law student at the Antonin Scalia Law School at George Mason University. He is the organizer of a petition asking George Mason University officials to rescind the school’s booster mandate.

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