Beginning the week of Sept. 20, the Biden Administration plans to roll out booster shots for all vaccinated Americans, as announced by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) on Aug. 18.
The Boise State Vaccination Clinic plans to follow suit.
Jason Carter, who manages the vaccine clinic, said that the clinic already provides COVID-19 booster shots to those who are immunocompromised.
However, boosters will be available to the entire Boise State community, and the surrounding community, following approval by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
“That third dose recommendation came from the White House, which came from the Department of Health and Human Services, the HHS,” Carter said. “The FDA actually has to approve that [recommendation], and then the CDC signs off on it. That still hasn’t happened, which I’m certain it’s going to happen, but they’re going to take time and collect data and make sure it’s the right thing to do,” Carter said.
Once boosters become available, individuals must wait eight months after their last COVID-19 vaccination to receive an additional dose.
According to Carter, the vaccination clinic has the capacity to administer about 170 vaccines a day. If demand is high, the clinic may opt to administer boosters by appointment only, though there are no official plans at this time.
Also worth noting is that students can receive a vaccine with or without their vaccination card. The Boise State Vaccination Clinic has access to Idaho’s Immunization Reminder Information System (IRIS) and can confirm students’ previous COVID vaccinations should they not have their card on hand.
“If [students] don’t have a card, we’ll just give them a new card,” Carter said. “We can actually — if they got vaccinated in Idaho — we can look it up in IRIS and give them a whole new card with all three vaccines on it.”
Additionally, students can receive a booster from the clinic even if they were vaccinated at a different location.
Although this next wave of vaccine distribution has yet to be approved by the FDA and CDC, Carter anticipates the Boise State Vaccination Clinic will receive more shipments of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines soon after the Sept. 20 goal set by the White House.
However, the clinic will not receive additional shipments of the Janssen vaccine, made by Johnson & Johnson, during this rollout.
Boosters for the Janssen vaccine, which have observed promising results during medical trials, will be provided by the clinic once they’ve gained approval by the FDA.
In an Aug. 25 statement released by Johnson & Johnson, it was reported that “a booster dose of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine further increases antibody responses among study participants who had previously received [the Janssen] vaccine.”
Despite the initial obstacles facing the distribution of a Janssen booster, Carter said that the Boise State Vaccination Clinic will eventually provide them once they gain FDA approval.
With this anticipation of vaccine shipments, Carter entertained the idea of hosting another mass vaccination clinic event, similar to the vaccination event hosted at ExtraMile Arena on April 3, 2021.
“We did like 771 [vaccinations] that day in four hours, so that means we could easily do 1500 in about eight hours,” Carter said. “It’s very likely that if we can get a large amount of doses for boosters, we can probably do another event like that — more mass vaccine clinics.”
For now, Janssen recipients are encouraged to wait for further information and avoid getting Pfizer or Moderna boosters, as the vaccine clinic can only administer booster shots matching an individual’s initial vaccination.
With the delta variant continuing to spread throughout the state of Idaho, Carter — who also oversees the isolation space in Jade Hall — strongly encourages vaccinated students to receive boosters once they become eligible.
According to Carter, five breakthrough cases were reported in August, though that number could potentially be higher.
“Health advisors say that a booster shot is going to boost your antibodies by five times the amount,” Carter said. “This is what you need to prevent [getting sick].”
With rising coronavirus cases on campus, Carter also advises unvaccinated students to get their vaccines.
The university initially decreased its number of isolation beds from 115 to 66, but due to the rapid infection rates associated with the delta variant, there was concern that the isolation space could quickly reach maximum capacity.
“I think the most we had in isolation at any given point last year was 45. I have 14 today [Aug. 30] in isolation, and I had 16 over the weekend,” Carter said.
On Aug. 31, Jade Hall increased its number of isolation beds to 88 in preparation for an influx of COVID-positive students. The newest update to Boise State’s COVID-19 tracking dashboard reported a total of 39 students occupying the isolation space as of Sept. 2, which marks a 25-person increase within three days.
“The viral loads for the delta variant — it’s like 1000 times higher than what they were with the original strain,” Carter said. “So, as long as people don’t get their vaccines and there’s vaccine hesitancy, this thing’s going to keep mutating and maybe mutate into something where the vaccine really doesn’t help out as much. That’s why it’s important to get your vaccine.”