UMass begins administering Pfizer booster shots to eligible members of community

After diverging consensus at the federal level, UMass moves forward with Pfizer booster

Ana+Pietrewicz+%2F+Daily+Collegian

Ana Pietrewicz / Daily Collegian

By Grace Fiori, Collegian Staff

The University of Massachusetts’ first Pfizer booster vaccine clinic opened on Thursday, Sept. 30. The University had been determining how to provide booster shots as part of their regional vaccine clinic, and after receiving the official notice from the CDC, FDA and the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, began to move forward with implementation.

Diverging decisions about who would be eligible for booster shots between the Biden administration, F.D.A. and C.D.C. officials in early September created initial confusion. Last week, the FDA approved booster shots for recipients of the Pfizer vaccine who are over 65, immunocompromised or working in environments that put them at a higher risk of exposure.

The decision has resulted in states moving forward with vaccine boosters during the last week of September, albeit haltingly, as officials are hesitant over the best procedures to implement. Some Americans are seeking out their own booster shots by their own means, regardless of eligibility status.   Official consensus asserts that Pfizer vaccine recipients who are eligible should seek to get a booster. Those who received Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines should continue to wait for specific boosters.

According to data provided by Deputy Director of UMass News and Media Relations Mary Detloff, 61.53 percent of the University’s staff, faculty and students have received the Pfizer vaccine. Those within this population who are eligible for the booster shots can now begin to book appointments at UMass.

The University has already provided a small number of third doses to those who are immunocompromised, according to the Director of UMass Public Health, Ann Becker. In an interview, Becker detailed how the UMass vaccine website contains the most recent updates on how to seek out an appointment for a Pfizer vaccine booster shot.

Becker noted that UMass will be administering booster shots by appointment only. Additionally, recipients will need to be at least six months post their second dose of the Pfizer vaccine and be within an eligibility group. The Massachusetts eligibility checker helps determine if an individual qualifies for a booster.

Eligibility is through “self-attestation [only],” Becker said, as it is, “far too complicated to try and verify whether someone fits into an occupational group.”

These clinics are organized in collaboration with the College of Nursing. They will be held in the lower level of the UMass Campus Center every Thursday from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. and every Friday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Booster shots will be combined with the annual flu vaccination clinics, allowing influenza vaccines and booster shots to be administered within the same appointment. It is recommended that participants bring their vaccination cards, if possible, to assist with record keeping.

As of this month, only those who received their second shot of Pfizer in March 2021 are eligible for a booster shot. With a greater concentration of younger, college-aged people having completed their series this past summer, UMass will be adapting its program as needed to meet demand.

“The plan is to have clinics staffed through Thanksgiving, and then see what supply and demand is like and what community needs are,” Becker said.

Becker anticipates that as vaccine boosters for Moderna become available, UMass will seek out a way to provide them.

“About 30 percent of our campus is vaccinated with Moderna, and we’ve been administering Pfizer and Moderna all along,” Becker said.

With only 5.05 percent of the UMass population having received Johnson & Johnson, it remains to be determined if UMass will seek to additionally provide the corresponding boosters if they become available.

Grace Fiori can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @grace_fiori.