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The bivalent COVID-19 booster clinic was offered during Nov. 3-4 at Pottruck. Credit: Jesse Zhang

Penn vaccinated over 4,000 community members during its November bivalent COVID-19 booster clinic.

The booster clinic hosted by Wellness at Penn ran from Nov. 3 to Nov. 4 in Gimbel Gymnasium in Pottruck Health and Fitness Center. The two-day clinic marked Penn’s first COVID-19 booster initiative since January, when the University held a four-day clinic in partnership with SunRay Drugs, a local pharmacy.

Director of Communications for Student Wellness Mary Kate Coghlan told The Daily Pennsylvanian that 4,198 Pfizer mRNA bivalent COVID-19 booster shots were given out during the clinic. 

The clinic was open to the entire Penn community and their families over the age of 16, and Coghlan said 61% of those who received a vaccine from the clinic were students. Of the 2,561 students who received the shot, 49% were undergraduates.

“We are thrilled that so many University community members attended the Penn Cares Booster Clinic, thus continuing to help keep Penn and our surrounding communities healthy and safe,” Chief Wellness Officer Benoit Dubé said.

Dubé said the bivalent mRNA booster is particularly important because it reduces the chances of severe illness and hospitalization caused by the current Omicron variants, in addition to the original strain of COVID-19.

As of the fall 2022 semester, Penn required all eligible community members to be fully vaccinated and have received at least one booster against COVID-19. The University mandated students to submit proof of vaccination to their Wellness Portal. 

Associate Director of Public Health and Wellbeing Rebecca Huxta said that she found the number of students who came to the clinic “very encouraging,” especially because the bivalent booster is not required by the University.

“It was very encouraging to see that students are still caring about their health, still caring about COVID-19, and still wanting to protect themselves and others by getting the updated booster,” Huxta said.

Community members who have not yet received their upgraded booster shot and missed the Wellness clinic can get their vaccine at nearby pharmacies, including CVS and Walgreens, Dubé said.

Executive Director of Student Health and Counseling William Adelman said that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend the bivalent booster shot in particular for individuals over the age of five, as long as it has been at least two months since a prior booster.

“What makes this shot a little bit different is that it is bivalent, so it includes not only the traditional booster for COVID-19, but it also includes coverage for the most prevalent variants that weren’t part of the original booster,” Adelman said, adding that it covers the two Omicron variants that are causing the vast majority of current COVID-19 cases.

Adelman said that since there might be a rise in COVID-19 cases over the winter during flu season, the best way to protect oneself is to receive the booster shot and the flu shot.

The booster clinic marked the third time the University used Gimbel Gymnasium as a vaccine clinic location this year. In January 2022, Penn held its first-round COVID-19 booster clinic from Jan. 14 to Jan. 19. More recently, in September 2022, the University held its annual flu clinic at Gimbel, where over 11,000 community members were vaccinated.