Quinnipiac to host a booster COVID-19 vaccine clinic in January amid threats from new omicron variant

Jacklyn Pellegrino, Staff Writer

Quinnipiac University is not currently planning on mandating the COVID-19 booster shot for students and faculty, although the university anticipates hosting a booster clinic on campus in January.

Dr. David Hill, senior medical advisor, said even though the booster shot will not be mandated, students who aren’t vaccinated should reconsider their thoughts about being exempted from the vaccine and consider being vaccinated and continue to wear a mask in public.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends Moderna and Pfizer booster shots six months after a second dose. (Daniel Passapera )

“At this point, we’re not going to mandate it,” Hill said. “We are going to try to encourage everyone who’s eligible to get vaccinated, and we’re planning on having booster clinics in January. The problem with mandating it for students perhaps over the winter break is many students may not be six months beyond their second dose.”

Hill said that there are not currently any specific details about the potential booster clinic because it is still being planned.

“We’re looking to outsource it, have someone come on campus, as we had with the flu vaccine,” Hill said. “It probably wouldn’t be CVS but maybe another provider. But beyond that, we’re in the discussion steps so hopefully by the end of next week we’ll have that confirmed.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended all adults who received Pfizer or Moderna vaccines at least six months ago to get a booster shot. For Johnson & Johnson vaccine recipients, they are recommended to get a booster dose at least two month after the first dose.

The CDC said people can receive any of the authorized vaccines for their booster dose.

When it comes to the new omicron COVID-19 variant, Hill said there are still many unknowns as to how it will impact our community.

“It’s likely that omicron will prompt us to continue to wear masks through the spring semester,” Hill said. “Unless omicron disappears, which it seems unlikely, that we will be able to not wear our masks but we should be able to continue doing what we’re doing. We’re going to look at this new data when it comes in, we’ll assess it and we’ll have this good period around the Christmas, winter break, to see how widely spread the virus is.”

Emma Kogel

The CDC reported Dec. 7, that the omicron variant has now been found in 50 countries and 19 states including Connecticut, noting that the number is expected to increase.

Governor Ned Lamont confirmed a second positive case of the variant in the state Dec. 7. As a result, Connecticut’s COVID-19 positivity rate jumped to 8.33%.

According to National Public Radio, the omicron variant was reported to the WHO on Nov. 24, and has since been detected in over a dozen countries and several continents.

“We can’t really say anything definitive right now because we’ve only been looking at it on a global basis for the last week or so,” Hill said. “As information comes in, we’ll understand more about what the risk is. We expect vaccines to still be effective and whether they’ll be less effective against this variant remains to be seen.”

Hill said one of the barriers to immunization, at Quinnipiac and beyond, is access, so having a vaccine clinic on campus “makes it so much easier.”

Jessica Rokhsar, a sophomore occupational therapy major, said she will wait before she gets the booster shot.

“As of now, I don’t think they should mandate it, just highly recommend it at this point,” Rokhsar said. “Maybe eventually, but for right now probably not.”

Puneet Sidhu, a sophomore chemistry major, said that having an on-campus booster clinic will be beneficial for students, especially first-years.

“I think that would be really nice because it would give students the option to get it on campus,” Sidhu said. “It would make it more accessible for them than having to go out of their way to go get it because I know some kids, especially freshmen, don’t necessarily have cars, so I think that would be a really nice option if they open that in January.”

Avery Simonds, a sophomore interdisciplinary studies major, said that she thinks that Quinnipiac should mandate the booster shot. Regardless of the university’s policies, she said she will still get the shot and that possibly having a booster clinic in January is “a great idea, makes it easier.” 

Hill said the main message is to get vaccinated, get the booster if eligible and take basic precautions for protecting yourself with face masks and hygiene.

“Boosters are important, but it’s equally important, if not more important, that everybody who hasn’t been vaccinated get vaccinated so that’s the goal,” Hill said.