Wellness at Penn will provide COVID-19 boosters to members of the Penn community next week in partnership with a local pharmacy.
Wellness at Penn previously recommended the new boosters, which are currently only produced by Pfizer, Moderna, and Novavax, for all members of the Penn community. The new boosters are designed to target the Omicron variant XBB.1.5., the current dominant strain of the virus, as well as similar strains.
Vaccines will be offered on-site at Wellness at Penn’s administrative office — located at 3535 Market Street, Mezzanine — from Nov. 8 until Nov. 10. The vaccines will be available from 11:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. on Nov. 8-9, and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Nov. 10.
The new Pfizer and Moderna vaccines were approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration on Sept. 11, and the Novavax vaccine was approved on Oct. 3 of this year. The Centers of Disease Control and Prevention also recommended the new vaccines.
While the government formerly purchased and supplied vaccines, the government ceased to cover vaccines’ costs for the public following the repeal of the federal COVID-19 public health emergency. The updated vaccines will remain free for Penn community members with major-medical health insurance.
The vaccines are available to all Penn students, staff, faculty, and postdocs. Recipients are required to register for an appointment to receive a vaccination ahead of time, and may do so here.
Attendees may list a preference of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines, though the Novavax vaccine will not be available. Sunray — Wellness at Penn’s local partner pharmacy — will also be able to provide the flu vaccine to attendees.
As a result of the end of the federal COVID-19 Public Health Emergency, attendees must also provide health insurance information at the time of registration and should input the information found on their insurance card. University health insurance plans such as the Penn Student Insurance Plan — as well as most other plans — cover the booster at no cost.
Ashlee Halbritter, Wellness at Penn’s executive director of public health and well-being, told The Daily Pennsylvanian that the on-campus COVID-19 case count remains substantially lower than last year despite a "slight bump" following fall break. She said getting vaccinated now will help protect community members ahead of the holiday season.
"We absolutely strongly recommend that all students consider getting a flu and COVID-19 vaccine especially ahead of all of the winter holidays, if not only to protect themselves but to continue to protect their family members who may be elderly or may be immunocompromised," Halbritter said.
Halbritter added that, while Penn community members getting vaccinated will help prevent an increase in on-campus cases, it remains too early in the pandemic to establish seasonal trends of COVID-19 spread.
“The seasonality of COVID-19 does not have any sort of predictable pattern yet, [and] the vaccine is the best way to help prevent a bump on campus that derails academic progress,” Halbritter said.