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Ohio University students are required to be vaccinated with special religious and moral exemptions stated by the Office of President Sherman.

Mostly older generation getting COVID-19 booster shots despite anyone with Johnson & Johnson being eligible

The Athens City-County Health Department, or ACCHD, is offering vaccine boosters to those who are eligible, but, despite numerous students receiving the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, primarily those 65 and older have been getting their booster.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s, or CDC’s, website, individuals who are at least 65 years of age and received the Pfizer or Moderna vaccination are eligible for a COVID-19 booster vaccination six months after completing their primary vaccination series. 

Those who also received Moderna or Pfizer and are at least 18 years old are eligible to get the booster shot if they live in long-term care settings, have underlying medical conditions or live or work in high-risk settings. 

“We get vaccine boosters for a lot of different diseases,” Gillian Ice, special assistant to the president for public health operations, said. “Those are based on studies that have shown that there's waning immunity over time.” 

Anyone 18 years of age and older who received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is eligible for the booster shot only two months after initial vaccination. 

In April, Ohio University, in partnership with the ACCHD, received weekly deliveries of the Johnson & Johnson vaccines, which were administered in vaccination clinics until April 13, when it paused use of Johnson & Johnson shot due to side effects. 

Prior to the pause of that vaccine, Ice advocated for students to receive it due to the ease of a one-shot vaccine, and the university encouraged students to cancel appointments for other vaccines to get the Johnson & Johnson one, according to a previous Post report.

Despite many OU students receiving the Johnson & Johnson dose, James Gaskell, the ACCHD health commissioner, said the department has not seen many students come in for their booster shot. Rather, the department is getting many individuals who are in the 65-plus range for boosters.  

Gaskell said based on the stipulations on the CDC’s website, a large portion of the general population is already eligible for booster vaccinations. 

According to the CDC’s website, first responders, educational staff and those who work in food and agriculture, manufacturing, corrections, the U.S. Postal Service, public transit and grocery stores all qualify for the “high risk” population eligible for boosters. 

However, Gaskell said ACCHD does not go to extreme measures to confirm that an individual is eligible for the booster shot. 

“We trust them,” Gaskell said. “We don't call their doctor. They don't need a doctor's slip saying they have this underlying condition.”  

In October, ACCHD held two vaccination booster clinics at OU’s Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine. Gaskell said the department saw around 400 to 500 individuals for vaccination boosters. However, some were able to get their first vaccine if they had not yet been vaccinated. 

“That is the most efficient way because we can vaccinate a lot of people in one day,” Gaskell said. “So, we like the mass vax clinics.” 

Currently, ACCHD is seeing individuals at the department for booster shots primarily on an appointment basis. Gaskell said it has around 40 individuals come to the department per day for COVID-19 boosters. 

He also said the Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine gives the department the ability to monitor those who are vaccinated for the 15-minute observation period that is required post-vaccination more effectively than at the department. 

“Here at the health department, we have a smaller observation area, and we can’t have as many people in there to be observed,” Gaskell said. “We have somewhat limited capacity to keep people six feet apart in our health department.” 

Ice said the university is currently evaluating the potential for a vaccine booster mandate. However, she maintained there would have to be scientific agreement on the necessity for all adults to receive a booster and additional CDC guidance before it makes a decision. 

“There's not consensus on the fact that adults, other than those that are immune-compromised, need a booster,” Ice said. “The vaccines were designed to prevent hospitalization and death and not necessarily prevent transmission. They do a really good job at still preventing transmission. Where we’re seeing vaccine efficacy decline is in transmission, not in hospitalization and death.” 

Those looking to schedule a COVID-19 booster vaccination appointment at the ACCHD are able to do so by calling 740-592-443.


Molly Wilson

News Editor

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