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Princeton offers COVID-19 booster shots as eligibility expands

<h6>Bhoomika Chowdhary / The Daily Princetonian</h6>
Bhoomika Chowdhary / The Daily Princetonian

The University's COVID-19 vaccination clinics will continue to administer COVID-19 booster shots to all those who qualify under the CDC’s recently expanded eligibility criteria. These clinics will be held twice weekly in Jadwin Gymnasium from Nov. 3 through Dec. 16, according to an email sent to all students and employees by Dr. Irini Daskalaki of University Health Services. 

Pfizer boosters will be administered on Wednesdays and Moderna boosters on Thursdays. Johnson & Johnson vaccines will not be available at either clinic. The vaccination clinics are open to members of the University as well as the public.

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The CDC recommendations released Oct. 21 state that individuals over the age of 65, or individuals over the age of 18 who live in long-term care, have underlying medical conditions, or work or live in high-risk (including educational) settings qualify for a booster shot. Notably, individuals must have received their initial vaccine series at least six months ago in order to be eligible.

Previously, individuals who initially received a Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine series and are over the age of 65, or who live in long term care facilities, work or live in high-risk settings, or have underlying health conditions were eligible for a Pfizer booster. Now, individuals in the aforementioned groups who received Moderna or Johnson & Johnson vaccines are also eligible for any one of the three boosters. 

The new guidelines also say that adults 18 and older who initially received J&J vaccines qualify to receive a third shot. While individuals who received the Moderna and Pfizer vaccine need to wait six months after their second shot to qualify for a booster, those who were first vaccinated with the J&J vaccine only need to wait two months. 

Although the University encourages students, faculty, and staff to report their booster vaccinations via MyUHS for students and VacStatus for faculty and staff, they are not required to do so. Consequently, the University lacks accurate data on what percentage of the University community has received third doses at this time. While the exact number of students who have received a booster is unknown, according to an email to The Daily Princetonian from Deputy University Spokesperson Michael Hotchkiss, “the number remains very low.”

“[W]e encourage members of the University community who may be more vulnerable to take advantage of a booster dose to increase their protection and minimize their possibility for adverse outcomes from COVID,” Hotchkiss wrote.

While the first and second dose of COVID-19 vaccines were mandated for students, faculty, and staff last spring, as circumstances of the pandemic develop, a third dose may be required in future. 

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“The University will consider mandating booster shots if the recommended population broadens significantly and/or if the CDC and other public health officials change the definition of ‘fully vaccinated’ to include more than two doses of Pfizer or Moderna vaccines or more than one dose of the J&J vaccine,” he said.

Hotchkiss specified, however, that the University has no intention of mandating booster shots at this time.

Tess Weinreich is a news and features contributor for the 'Prince.' She can be reached at tw7353@princeton.edu or at @TessWeinreich on Twitter.

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