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Serving the GW Community since 1904

The GW Hatchet

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Students receive booster shots as threat of Omicron variant looms

Photo Illustration by Danielle Towers | Assistant Photo Editor
The CDC now reccomends all fully vaccinated people who recieved their last Moderna of Pfizer dose at least six months ago or their Johnson & Johnson vaccine at least two months ago get a booster shot.

Updated: Dec. 6 at 1:57 p.m.

A growing number of students are receiving their booster shots for an extra layer of protection against COVID-19 as the Omicron variant is spreading across the country.

More than 20 students said they’re looking to the booster shot for a greater sense of safety from the coronavirus, with some securing appointments and others planning to receive the shot in the near future. After the Medical Faculty Associates began offering booster shots throughout November, officials made their first announcement Friday about the vaccines, which the MFA’s website states are available at 949 23rd St. NW, across from the GW Hospital.

Public health experts are encouraging Americans to get the booster dose as scientists are finding “reduced protection” from the COVID-19 vaccines as more time passes since vaccination and as new variants emerge, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The Food and Drug Administration authorized the Pfizer and Moderna booster shots for all individuals 18-years- old and older late last month after previously limiting booster eligibility.

Anna Jett, a junior majoring in history, said she got her booster shot at the end of Thanksgiving break to protect herself and her family members, some of whom did not receive the coronavirus vaccine.

“I chose to get my booster shot, if I’m being completely honest, because doctors and leading scientists said to do it,” Jett said. “I just wanted to be safe and protect my family.”

Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said the coronavirus booster shot is likely to give people “cross protection” against multiple coronavirus variants. He said booster shots increase the number of memory B cells, which create antibodies to fight viruses, and memory T cells, which can kill off cells already infected with the virus.

California identified the first case of the Omicron variant in the United States last Wednesday, and Maryland officials announced the first three Omicron cases in the Baltimore area Friday. The World Health Organization identified Omicron as a “variant of concern,” stating that it has a large number of mutations in a release late last month.

Jett said it was “nerve racking” spending her Thanksgiving break with her family in Alabama, which ranks 48th in vaccination rate by state, with less than 50 percent of its population fully vaccinated. She said she was “very uncomfortable” shopping at a store during the break, where only she and her sister were wearing a mask when she heard about the outbreak of the Omicron variant.

She said she was planning to get the booster in any case, but hearing the news about Omicron spreading from South Africa to Canada and most recently to the United States “immediately struck an alarm” and encouraged her to get the shot right away.

“It kind of told me I need to do this before I go back to D.C. just to be safe, and so that it’s effective in my system by the time I come home for winter break,” Jett said.

Calista Mueller, a junior studying public health, said she got her booster shot at a local Publix supermarket when she went home to Tennessee for Thanksgiving break. She said seeing updates about scientists recommending the booster shot from major news sources like The New York Times and The Washington Post contributed to her decision to receive another dose.

Mueller said she didn’t have any symptoms after receiving the booster shot, but she felt fatigued and went to bed a bit earlier than usual. She said the first time she got the vaccine, she had a fever, felt “really sick” and had to lay down all day.

Mueller said she tried to find a booster shot appointment in D.C. before winter break but struggled finding available appointments in nearby CVS pharmacies. Before officials emailed students about booster shot availability, she said she didn’t know about the MFA’s walk-in booster shot appointments, and that the University should publicize the appointments more.

The FDA has authorized people to “mix and match” their original coronavirus vaccines with a different company supplying their booster shot.

Hailey Figur, a junior studying international affairs, said the pandemic affected her family “very directly,” so she wanted to get the booster shot to make sure she stays protected. Figur said she received her booster shot two weeks ago and faced symptoms like a sore arm and fever chills.

“I didn’t sleep through the night,” Figur said. “I felt achy and very sensitive to temperature and surfaces. It was just how I feel when I have the flu.”

Isabela Attianese, a senior studying sports management and marketing, said she plans to get the booster shot after finals exams wrap up to avoid symptoms while preparing for finals.

“I just don’t want to be wiped out right when I’m studying, but as soon as it’s done, I’ll get it,” Attianese said.

Jackson Lanzer and Nikki Ghaemi contributed reporting.

This post has been updated to clarify the following:

An earlier version of this post included information from officials’ Friday email that the booster shots are available at the MFA’s West End location. They are actually available at the MFA’s vaccine center across from the GW Hospital.

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