By Staff

AMHERST (CBS) — All 75,000 students and 18,000 employees at the University of Massachusetts will be required to get a COVID vaccine booster in early 2022, the state school system announced Tuesday.

UMass Amherst, Dartmouth and the Chan Medical School had already announced booster requirements. Now UMass Boston and UMass Lowell are mandating the booster shot.

“Vaccination is the best defense against COVID-19,” UMass President Marty Meehan said in a statement. “The data are clear that vaccination protects us against severe illness and death. I urge everyone to get vaccinated and, as soon as they are eligible, get a booster.”

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Students and staff had been required to get their first COVID vaccinations in the fall, and Meehan said nearly 100% of the UMass community is vaccinated, “which has kept COVID-19 positivity rates well below national and state averages across the university system.”

UMass says workers who have been granted a religious or medical exemption are exempt from the booster requirement. Staff