Auburn University offered the Moderna vaccine during the spring semester to students, faculty and staff through a mass vaccination drive, and Dr. Fred Kam, director of the Auburn University Medical Clinic, said the University is ready to do the same for booster shots once they are publicly authorized.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued guidance Wednesday, for those vaccinated with the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines, that booster shots may be necessary to renew the vaccines' protection against COVID-19, as studies have shown their efficacy is decreasing over time. The CDC said it aims to make booster shots available to the public starting the week of Sept. 20 pending an evaluation from the Food and Drug Administration. They have stated that people should receive their booster shot eight months after their second vaccine dose.
"We've actually already picked some dates with the extent that we're waiting for the FDA approval and the CDC approval to proceed with booster shots," Kam said.
The University held its spring vaccination drive in Beard-Eaves Memorial Coliseum for individuals on campus first and later Auburn community members. Kam said booster shots would be provided in the facility as well.
"I'm not sure that it's going to be the same location, it may be the third floor ... [or] the scholarship room of the Coliseum," he said.
Kam said the Coliseum is an ideal facility for mass vaccination as it is well-ventilated and has adequate parking outside for people to quickly enter and exit the building.
For those still in need of receiving their first or second doses of COVID-19 vaccine, Kam said the University is still offering shots through its Pharmaceutical Care Center or that people can visit a retailer like CVS, Walmart, Publix or Walgreens where vaccines are available.
"If you're considering getting it, don't wait, just go ahead and get it because nobody wants to have to go through multiple quarantine periods through the semester," Kam said. "It won't just be this semester, this will carry over into the spring."
The University cannot share how many students, faculty and staff have been vaccinated as Gov. Kay Ivey on May 24 passed Alabama Act 2021-493, which prohibits state and governmental entities in Alabama from disclosing immunization records or releasing lists of those vaccinated. However, Kam said he believes over half of the University's students may have herd immunity to COVID-19.
"If I took who I believe the number of students who have been vaccinated based on different pieces of voluntary data that has come in as well as a guesstimate on the number of students that I think have had the disease and may have some degree of natural immunity, I think that we're probably well over 50%," he said.
While Kam could not disclose numbers of those vaccinated, he said over 5,000 students have entered the University's vaccine incentive program. The University launched the program for the fall 2021 semester to encourage more students to get vaccinated, and winners are randomly selected for prizes like a $1,000 scholarship and A-zone parking for a semester.
"In addition to that, we know that we gave up a lot of vaccines earlier in the year, January through March," Kam said. "Back then we were very much focused on having a successful spring semester, so we made sure we vaccinated students who were vulnerable or at risk and also students who have important roles like teaching assistants, [supplemental instruction] instructors and graduate students."
Kam said the student body still needs to aim for higher vaccination numbers to overcome the delta variant of the coronavirus.
"We have to get up into the 85% range and there are only two ways to get there," he said. "One is vaccination and two is people getting infected, and we don't like the second option because it creates a lot of dysfunction. In the classroom it puts a lot of people at more risk unnecessarily, and it puts a greater stress on the healthcare system."
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