Penn will host a COVID-19 booster vaccine clinic next week, on Dec. 15, 16, and 17.
The clinic will provide the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine to all students, faculty, staff, and postdoctoral students, who can sign up through the University's COVID-19 scheduling platform, Chief Wellness Officer Benoit Dubé told The Daily Pennsylvanian on Tuesday afternoon. The clinic will operate out of Pottruck Health and Fitness Center's Gimbel Gymnasium from 8:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. on each of the three days.
The University has been working for the past two weeks to host a COVID-19 booster vaccine clinic ahead of winter break as the Omicron variant spreads and COVID-19 cases increase across the country, Dubé said. He added that a COVID-19 booster vaccine requirement is potentially on the table, but as of now, there is no such mandate in place.
"It is our strong belief that getting boosted is the right thing to do," Dubé said. "We are strongly recommending that everyone get a booster shot as it is the best way to continue to protect yourself against COVID-19."
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention expanded booster eligibility on Nov. 19 to all adults who have received the second dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine six or more months ago, or received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine two or more months ago. Student Health Service Medical Director Vanessa Stoloff said that CDC guidance allows for people to receive a different booster shot than the shot one originally received, adding that it is imperative to receive the booster regardless of which vaccine it is.
Director of Campus Health Ashlee Halbritter said the University chose to provide the Pfizer shot over the Moderna shot specifically because the Pfizer shot has been approved as a booster for a number of international COVID-19 vaccines.
A number of peer institutions have also held or have plans to hold booster clinics. Princeton University held a booster clinic last week for its students amid a COVID-19 positivity rate spike on its campus. The University of Notre Dame plans to hold a vaccine clinic in early January, and will also require all students to receive booster shots ahead of the spring 2022 semester.
Penn's booster clinic will mark the third time the University will employ Gimbel Gymnasium as a vaccine clinic location this year. In April 2021, Penn held its original COVID-19 vaccine clinic, and earlier this fall — from Oct. 4 through Oct. 8 — the University vaccinated nearly 14,000 community members against the flu at its Gimbel flu vaccine clinic.
Students and staff deemed both clinics highly successful and very efficient, noting the little-to-no wait times, and pointing to the ease in accessing Gimbel, as it is a central hub on campus. Given the history of success — as well as the fact that it is also accessible in accordance with the Americans with Disabilities Act — Halbritter said picking Gimbel as the booster clinic site was an easy decision.
"We are really looking forward to holding this clinic and making it as easy as possible for the Penn community to get their booster shot," Halbritter said. "As we're saying, it's 'best to be boosted' and we hope everyone will take advantage of the clinic next week."