New COVID-19 booster available for students, staff

Marcus Pacenza, Contributing Reporter

Cecilia Hammond

This school year is expected to be the first since 2020 without major COVID-19 impacts at Tulane University. But the virus is still here, and there is a new tool to help people decrease their chances of getting seriously sick: a reformulated booster vaccine. 

The new “bivalent” booster targets the omicron variant, which has made up the majority of COVID-19 infections in recent months, as well as the original variant of COVID-19. The new booster is manufactured by both Pfizer and Moderna and has been authorized by the Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control.

 The Pfizer version of the bivalent booster is available and free for all Tulane students, faculty and staff. Campus Health strongly urges but does not require students, faculty and staff to receive the shot. 

According to Tulane Medical School Epidemiologist Susan Hassig, anyone above the age of 12 who has completed the original series of the COVID-19 vaccine — meaning either two shots of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine or one of the Johnson and Johnson vaccine — is eligible to receive the Pfizer version of the bivalent booster. 

Campus Health recommends students wait two months since their last COVID-19 vaccination to receive the booster. 

Hassig said students who have recently been infected with COVID-19 should wait two to three months to receive the new booster because “you don’t want the circulating neutralizing antibodies that may have been generated by the natural infection to in any way interfere with the vaccine generated response.” 

After receiving the new COVID-19 booster, can students throw caution to the wind when it comes to the pandemic? Not quite, Hassig said: “I don’t think people should count on the booster being a way to avoid infection. That’s not what the vaccines are designed to do.” 

Hassig also said that students who have medical concerns around COVID-19 should wear a mask in public situations and take other precautions to avoid infection. 

“The Tulane community as a whole, especially the student population, is young and by definition, not at risk for severe disease,” Hassig said. 

The university requires students, faculty and staff to submit proof of vaccination for the original COVID-19 vaccine and initial booster. Tulane had a 95% vaccination rate among students and 92% among faculty, as of August 2021. 

Campus Health will host a Vaccine Fair on both the Uptown and Downtown Campuses from Sept. 14 to Oct. 28. Students interested in receiving the vaccination should check their Tulane email for an email entitled “New Bivalent COVID-19 Boosters Available” to make an appointment.

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