Students will need COVID-19 booster shot to end pandemic

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During Welcome Week, there was a COVID-19 vaccine booth at UNLV during. Photo by Larissa Geilen.

COVID-19 booster shots for fully vaccinated people have recently become available, but not for everyone. 

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced on Sept. 22 that people over 65 years old, those who are at high risk of getting severely sick from COVID-19 and workers who are at risk of exposure to the virus at their jobs, like health care workers, are eligible for the booster shot. 

For an overwhelming majority of fully vaccinated, college-aged students around the ages of 18-25 years old, there is not yet eligibility for a booster shot. However, while the focus is currently on certain groups, that should not discourage anyone from getting the booster shot once it does become widely available. 

There’s nothing wrong with the booster shot. It is essentially a third dose of the original vaccine, and getting it will be essential in keeping up your body’s immune response to fight against COVID-19 and the different variants. 

“The whole idea of a booster shot is it reduces your risk of getting disease,” UNLV Epidemiologist and associate professor Brian Labus said. “People who are not getting the booster, who will have the first two doses but not the third, will be at higher risk of infection, compared to people who had all three doses.” 

“That’s the case with every vaccine, if you’re only partially vaccinated, your risk is going to be greater and if your risk isn’t greater there’ll be no reason to recommend that sort of shots,” Labus said.

Similarly to the original rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine, the FDA and other government agencies currently only recommend specific groups of people to get the booster shot. That doesn’t mean that the booster shot won’t eventually be approved for everyone. It’s a balancing act of aiding those who are at a high risk and not wanting to overwhelm the system. 

“The problem is it’s a capacity issue,” said Dr. Marc J. Khan, the Dean of the Kirk Kerkorian School of Medicine at UNLV. “So, if we said everyone needs to get a booster shot, conceivably, we could overwhelm our system that is giving vaccinations. It’s just a way of giving the most oppressed people access to vaccines first, and then spreading it out as much as we did when we got the initial vaccines.”

No one should become skeptical of the importance or positives of the booster shot after the FDA’s recent announcement. In fact, it’s an encouraging sign because the FDA said they need to do more research before they fully recommend the booster shot, as opposed to them approving something without having all the research done first.  

“The FDA has said that ‘we need more information to make that recommendation,’” Labus said. “They didn’t say that we’re not going to recommend that they just said, ‘for us to fully evaluate this correctly, we need more information,’ and they’re going to continue to do that. The manufacturers are going to continue to collect that information and evaluate their vaccines both in college students and all other age groups.”

One reason there needs to be more research done on young adults with the booster shots is due to the side effects from the vaccine. Heart inflammation (myocarditis) has been seen as a side effect in younger people who have gotten the vaccine, which has not been seen in older adults. Those side effects, while potentially serious, wane in comparison against the side effects of COVID-19, especially if you are unvaccinated.  

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention still recommends that everyone get the vaccine, citing that myocarditis is a rare condition and the known risk of COVID-19 has been far more serious. Ben Reis is the author of a new study where he concluded that myocarditis is more dangerous after infection from COVID-19 than after receiving the vaccine. 

As of Sept. 23, only 50.3 percent of Nevada’s population are fully vaccinated, which is 1.55 million people. With the booster shot in the infancy stages of its roll out, there is still an emphasis on getting those who are still unvaccinated the shot, which will help reduce the spread of COVID-19 and boost immunity against the virus.

Both Kahn and Labus estimated that a decision on the booster shot for college-aged students would be made before the end of the year. Kahn was quick to encourage everyone to get the booster shot.

“When the recommendation comes out for universal boosters, people need to get the booster vaccines,” Kahn said.

Every UNLV student who is fully vaccinated needs to follow up with the booster shot when it becomes available. Not only will it protect you from the virus, but it is essential for returning to the true normalcy last seen before the pandemic. Students should not stress too much about not receiving approval from the FDA to get the shot just yet. Our time to put an end to this pandemic will be up very soon.

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