Harvard Business School announced on Monday that all first-year and some second-year graduate students will temporarily revert to remote learning after a recent surge in breakthrough cases driven by the delta variant.
The shift to remote learning for the school, which is in Boston, will last through Oct. 3, said Mark Cautela, a spokesman for the business school.
“In recent days, we’ve seen a steady rise in breakthrough infections among our student population, despite high vaccination rates and frequent testing,” he said in a statement.
As of Sept. 22, 95% of students and 96% of employees at Harvard are fully vaccinated, according to data from the university.
“Contact tracers who have worked with positive cases highlight that transmission is not occurring in classrooms or other academic settings on campus,” Cautela said. “Nor is it occurring among individuals who are masked.”
Frequently Asked Questions
A vaccine works by mimicking a natural infection. A vaccine not only induces immune response to protect people from any future COVID-19 infection, but also helps quickly build herd immunity to put an end to the pandemic. Herd immunity occurs when a sufficient percentage of a population becomes immune to a disease, making the spread of disease from person to person unlikely. The good news is that SARS-CoV-2 virus has been fairly stable, which increases the viability of a vaccine.
There are broadly four types of vaccine — one, a vaccine based on the whole virus (this could be either inactivated, or an attenuated [weakened] virus vaccine); two, a non-replicating viral vector vaccine that uses a benign virus as vector that carries the antigen of SARS-CoV; three, nucleic-acid vaccines that have genetic material like DNA and RNA of antigens like spike protein given to a person, helping human cells decode genetic material and produce the vaccine; and four, protein subunit vaccine wherein the recombinant proteins of SARS-COV-2 along with an adjuvant (booster) is given as a vaccine.
Vaccine development is a long, complex process. Unlike drugs that are given to people with a diseased, vaccines are given to healthy people and also vulnerable sections such as children, pregnant women and the elderly. So rigorous tests are compulsory. History says that the fastest time it took to develop a vaccine is five years, but it usually takes double or sometimes triple that time.
The university has asked students to avoid unmasked indoor activities, group travel and gatherings with people outside their household.
The business school will begin testing all students three times a week, regardless of their vaccination status, Cautela said. Previously, unvaccinated students were being tested twice a week, and vaccinated students once a week, he said.
Graduate students have accounted for most of the recent positive cases at Harvard, according to the university’s COVID-19 dashboard. Over the past seven days, graduate students have comprised 51 of the 66 positive cases at the school.
Massachusetts has some of the highest vaccination rates in the country, with 77% of its population at least partly vaccinated and 68% fully vaccinated. New cases in the Boston area have been falling since a recent surge peaked in mid-September.
By Eduardo Medinac.2021 The New York Times Company