The CDC recommends receiving a booster for both the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines 5 months after completing the initial vaccine series. Photo courtesy of Reuters.
AIDAN GREGG | OPINION COLUMNIST | email@example.com
While I was at home for winter break watching Omicron numbers soar in Indiana, I found myself wondering when Butler would institute a booster mandate. Other private universities in Indiana like DePauw, Notre Dame and Valparaiso have, so I was sure Butler would follow suit but it never did.
Both the Pfizer and Moderna booster shots are proven to be safe and effective in preventing COVID-19 infection.
Kristen Nichols, an adjunct professor of pharmacy and health sciences at Butler, provides her thoughts on the efficacy of the COVID-19 vaccine and booster.
“It appears that vaccinated people are better protected against the Omicron variant when they’ve had a booster,” Nichols said. “So given that more than 97% of all the COVID variants going around are Omicron, I would highly recommend that anyone eligible to get a booster get one.”
Butler has encouraged students and employees to receive the booster and held two on-campus booster clinics last semester in the Health and Recreation Complex, with another scheduled to occur on February 2.
However, some vaccinated individuals may feel skeptical about the need for a booster shot. Many of us assumed that the COVID-19 vaccine would be all that was necessary to be protected against the virus.
Carla Brown, an assistant professor of pharmacy and health sciences and a public health specialist, said the COVID-19 booster is similar to other vaccine boosters.
“The measles, mumps and rubella vaccine is a vaccine that you will need to take multiple times because your immunity wanes over time,” Brown said. “If you are willing to get a vaccine to save your life once, then please be willing to continue to do this.”
Several vaccines and their boosters — including the measles, mumps, rubella and the tetanus vaccines — are required to attend most universities. Because of the high transmissibility and danger of COVID-19, it only makes sense that the vaccine be added to this list.
Furthermore, some people may be concerned about the side effects of the booster, which are similar to that of the regular vaccine.
Nichols said that though the side effects of the vaccine and booster can be problematic, it is preferable to the alternative.
“I know — especially for college students and people that are trying to work — the adverse effects of making you feel crummy can be a real pain,” Nichols said. “But I think it’s worth it because we’re not only worried about preventing hospitalization and death … but also it’s been shown that vaccination [and receiving a booster] can prevent long COVID. I’ve heard of several cases [of long COVID] in young adults and adolescents that have been just devastating.”
The potential for fatigue, muscle pain and fever isn’t appealing to anyone, but it is arguably much better than severe infection or long COVID-19.
Ellie Howe, a first-year international business and entrepreneurship and innovation major, feels that a booster mandate at Butler is necessary if we want to return to normal.
“If [Butler has] already mandated the vaccines, they should just start mandating the boosters too,” Howe said. “I think things are gonna start opening up and the only way [that can happen] is if you get your booster.”
Brown agrees with Howe that mandating the booster is necessary and cites its relative safety and effectiveness.
“We are not seeing differences between the booster and the original series, so for me as a scientist, that shows that the booster is safe and that it is effective,” Brown said. “If Butler requires and asks students, faculty and staff to get the vaccine, then it logically makes sense to get boosted in order to continue to promote your immune response.”
Some students and faculty have already been boosted, but the only way to ensure that our campus is protected from COVID-19 is to mandate the booster.
Although getting boosted is incredibly important, Nichols said that it is still necessary to follow the CDC guidelines for precautions like masking and social distancing.
“I think it’s good to remind people to wear their masks correctly and to try to do the other things like not [attending a crowded gathering],” Nichols said. “I know it’s such a pain and when you’re young you feel invincible, but I think … we need to do some of those public health measures recommended by the CDC, which includes testing when you’re not sure or … testing before going to large gatherings.”
Proper masking with N95 or KN95 masks remains an important tool in preventing the spread of COVID-19. This means wearing your mask over your mouth and nose whenever you are indoors.
Brown said it is important to be doing everything we can to protect ourselves against COVID-19 right now.
“I hope that we will emphasize the science and use the evidence-based strategies that public health tells us are effective,” Brown said. “This is the time that we really need to save lives.”