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What four Rutgers students have to say about coronavirus booster shots

Several students said they plan on receiving a coronavirus disease (COVID-19) booster shot or already received one. – Photo by Pixabay.com

Rutgers is currently offering booster shots of the Pfizer coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccine at its New Brunswick vaccination site, as previously reported by The Daily Targum. Several students shared their views on COVID-19 booster shots and whether they believe they are necessary during this stage of the pandemic.

Kristina Tecson, a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore, said she plans on getting a booster shot, since she believes vaccinations to be a necessary step in curtailing COVID-19 and creating a future without the virus. As someone with a longer medical history, she said she feels particularly motivated to receive a booster shot so she can better protect herself.

“If we are set on a future where we accommodate to live alongside the (COVID-19) virus, I think we have to take any precaution — whether getting vaccines, mask-wearing, social distancing — in order to subside this situation,” she said. “I think we were and still are optimistic about the virus being ‘gone,’ but we have to do what’s best in order to reach this ‘virus-free’ future we want.”

She said that while not everyone needs to receive the booster shot, some high-risk groups such as senior citizens, individuals with health conditions and health care workers need it because they are more vulnerable to COVID-19. They are currently eligible for a booster shot, along with adults who received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine at least two months ago, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Tecson said her father has already received a booster shot from a pharmacy and that he seems to be handling it well. Unlike her father’s initial vaccinations, he did not have to wait 15 minutes after receiving it for any side effects to occur, she said.

Sheaa Amin, a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore, recently received the first dose of her booster shot as someone with pre-existing health conditions and said that her experience was positive. She said her side effects after receiving the shot were similar to when she received the second dose of her initial vaccine.

“The experience was easy, as there were many same-day appointments at pharmacies and hospitals,” Amin said. “I scheduled my appointment at 9 a.m. for 12:45 p.m. that day.”

Natasha Marshall, a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore, said she thinks developing a COVID-19 booster shot was a reasonable measure, considering the pandemic’s impact when people were not vaccinated. She said she plans on getting the booster shot whenever the immunity she received from her initial vaccine begins to decrease or when the CDC recommends it for her.

“I feel much more comfortable being on campus knowing that I have protection from COVID-19 through the vaccine, and I want to keep my immunity up so that I can continue to have that protection," she said.

Arpan Gupta, a School of Engineering junior, said he sees booster shots as a sign that COVID-19 will not be going away anytime soon. After seeing cases go down from May to July, he said he hoped that the pandemic would end quickly but changed his expectations after the wave of COVID-19 cases during the late summer and news about the approval of booster vaccines.

He said he disagrees with the U.S. distributing booster vaccines to the general public while other countries are still struggling to provide initial vaccinations for their entire population. Gupta said he has family in India where vaccines are in short supply as well as hospital beds and essential medical equipment.

This includes his grandparents who are still waiting to receive their second dose of the vaccine despite receiving their first dose months ago, he said. 

“I truly believe that as a first-world leader country, it is partly our responsibility, both morally and obligatory, to supply other countries with vaccine doses that they themselves can not acquire,” Gupta said. “It is not (okay) for American residents to be getting our third dose when other countries are struggling to give their population the first dose.”

He said he believes booster shots should still be given to high-risk groups who truly need it but that the rest of the U.S. vaccine supply should be targeted toward countries still in the pandemic onslaught.

Marshall said that she understands the concern about the U.S. vaccine supply, considering that initial vaccinations are still effective in protecting most populations. She said the country should prioritize giving booster shots only to high-risk populations, since they will be more susceptible to serious illness from COVID-19 after their initial immunity.

In terms of Rutgers’ approach, Gupta said the University should not mandate additional booster vaccines and instead direct its resources toward providing COVID-19 testing for all students. As a resident assistant, he said many students reach out to him to ask about testing only to discover a long and inconvenient process that they eventually decide to forgo. 

“This gives the hoax of having low numbers of cases on campus when in reality, people who are asymptomatic are not able to get tested even after exposure,” Gupta said. “This lack of availability is a far more pressing concern and should be addressed instead of mandating a booster shot.”

Several students previously reported experiencing difficulties navigating the University’s protocols or having to look elsewhere for COVID-19 testing.

Gupta said the low number of reported COVID-19 cases and a general lack of information regarding the spread on campus give false reassurance to students, who then feel comfortable being lax with following COVID-19 safety precautions.

Marshall said Rutgers should wait until more information is released about the vaccines’ level of effectiveness and see whether a booster shot is recommended for larger portions of the student population. Tecson also said she thinks the University should not mandate booster shots immediately and instead wait to see how the pandemic progresses. 

“Getting the initial vaccine and proving it to the University seems an already good idea, considering how classes are now operating,” Tecson said. “But I feel like if the situation gets worse with the virus, then maybe a proof of a booster shot may be needed, possibly providing it on campus for students, or maybe they’ll just go back to being online. Overall, I don’t think it should be required until something awful happens.”


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