COVID-19 booster vaccine clinic held amid Omicron variant

Sandra Koretz

The school will host a COVID-19 vaccine booster clinic in partnership with Elements Pharmacy for those over the age of 18, offering both the Moderna and Pfizer boosters Dec. 16.

According to an email sent by the Community Health Office on Dec. 6, students over the age of 18 are eligible if the allotted time has passed since their last vaccine dose: They must be at least two months past their single dose of Johnson & Johnson or at least six months past their last dose of either the Pfizer or Moderna shot to be eligible for the booster clinic.

Although the school currently only recommends that eligible students receive the booster, President Rick Commons said the school has not yet determined whether or not to mandate the COVID-19 booster shot.

“We have not decided to mandate the booster,” Commons said. “We think it’s helpful for individual and community health, so we are encouraging it and making it available and convenient, which has been appreciated by families and employees. At this point, we have not decided to mandate the booster. It’s possible that we might require the booster if science suggests that it is a really effective way of preventing covid from taking hold in our community and affecting individuals, I could see us requiring it, just like we require vaccines in other areas.”

Although the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the booster for 16- and 17-year-olds Dec. 9, the school’s booster clinic is limited to 18-year-olds.

Providence Holy Cross Medical Center Anesthesiology Medical Director Brian Lee said receiving the booster shot will contribute to lower hospitalization rates and a healthier immune response to COVID-19.

“I believe that the booster will decrease hospitalizations,” Lee said. “A fully vaccinated person has a much more robust immune response and is able to fight the virus more effectively. While it may not prevent infection, it allows a person to get through the illness with much less severe symptoms. Therefore, the need for hospitalization goes way down. Over time, however, the effectiveness of the vaccine diminishes and the booster will rev up the immune system to its previous levels.”

Chief Operating Officer at QueensCare Health Center Marina Snitman said receiving the booster vaccine is important to protect the general health of students’ peers and their families.

“As schools reopen, students should be getting the booster shot because they are interacting more frequently with others,” Snitman said. “Everyone who is eligible should be getting the booster shot, not only to protect yourself but also your family and those you go to school with.”

Los Angeles County reported its fifth case of the Omicron variant, a new variant of COVID-19 first reported in late November in South Africa, caused by community transmission Wednesday, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Snitman said there is no proven information on whether the booster is effective in preventing the Omicron variant but is necessary to protect against other aspects of COVID-19.

“Currently, there is no concrete data on the booster efficacy against Omicron,” Snitman said. “However, Omicron is not the only variant that is out there. The Delta variant is still very much a threat. People need to get booster shots to keep up COVID-19 protection and not to spread the illness to others around them.”

Commons said the school will continue to enforce a face mask mandate, but he said he hopes that the mandate will no longer be necessary for the second semester.

“With the Omicron variant, people are becoming concerned again and we can expect that our masks will continue to stay on for at least the winter season,” Commons said. “I would love to see masks come off in classrooms in the spring, but I am not overly optimistic about that.”

Although Alex Mogollon ’22 said he is not planning to get the COVID-19 booster on campus, he said he is grateful the school has the resources to partner with Elements Pharmacy to provide the booster shot to students.

“I’m glad that the school is hosting a clinic in partnership with another pharmacy, and I think it makes the whole process for getting a booster much easier for students and teachers,” Mogollon said. “I’m also glad that we are fortunate enough to be able to partner with pharmacies especially since a lot of other schools and families don’t have the same access to vaccines that we do.”

Ayva Magna ’22 said the school’s partnership with Elements makes it more convenient for students to become vaccinated.

“I think [the clinic is] going to make it much easier for students especially if they weren’t making it a priority to get the booster right away,” Magna said. “Most of my friends got the vaccine when the school offered it in the spring, so I would expect a lot of them to also take advantage of the opportunity to get the booster at school because it doesn’t disrupt our crazy schedules. Also, I think it will be helpful for students who are traveling over winter break.”