UMass Public Health Promotion Center sends new COVID-19, flu update for start of fall semester

UMass encouraging students to get COVID-19 booster, influenza vaccine

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Ana Pietrewicz/Daily Collegian

By Sofi Shlepakov, Assistant News Editor

The University of Massachusetts sent an update regarding campus public health protocols to the campus community via email Thursday afternoon. The email came almost two weeks from the beginning of the fall 2022 semester.

Co-Directors of the Public Health Promotion Center, Ann Becker and Jeffrey Hescock, stated in the email that the FDA recently authorized bivalent COVID-19 vaccines, which “are designed to give you broad protection” against the earlier COVID-19 strain, as well as the BA.4 and BA.5 strains that derived from the Omicron variant.

The BA.4 and BA.5 strains are expected to “circulate widely” this fall and winter, according to the email.

The email stated that the University “highly recommends” that individuals within the UMass community receive the new Pfizer or Moderna Bivalent COVID-19 booster. This message comes with the return to campus and the rise of COVID-19 cases in the community.

The PHPC is also in partnership with Elaine Marieb College of Nursing and University Health Services and will continue to provide vaccines for those eligible in the lower level of the UMass Campus Center.

Vaccine clinics will open beginning Sept. 22 on Thursdays from noon to 4 p.m. and Fridays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. for children 12 and older. For those under the age of 12, the clinic will be open Thursday from 4 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. During September, appointments will be required; walk-ins will be allowed starting in October.

Free KN95 masks and antigen tests are available on the lower level of the Campus Center and UHS at the vending machines. The University is encouraging its community to wear masks in crowded spaces and to respect others’ mask-wearing decisions.

The email also stated that those in the community are “strongly” encouraged to get the flu vaccine in addition to the bivalent COVID-19 vaccine. Influenza vaccinations are offered at the PHPC COVID-19 clinics and can be received at the same time as a COVID-19 vaccine.

The University is asking for those who test positive to send their results to [email protected] and for those exposed or infected to continue following COVID-19 protocols.

“It is the collective responsibility of all of us to follow public health protocols for a healthy UMass community and a successful fall semester,” the email read.

Sofi Shlepakov can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @SShlepakov.