Latin Faculty and Staff Can Now Receive the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Booster Shot

Vector+of+a+doctor+with+syringe+injecting+vaccine+to+a+patient+shoulder. | Getty Images

Vector of a doctor with syringe injecting vaccine to a patient shoulder.

Latin faculty and staff are now approved to receive Pfizer’s COVID booster shot, following the recent authorization by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for certain populations, including healthcare workers, daycare staff, and teachers.

The COVID booster shot is an additional dose given to individuals who received their second dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID vaccine at least six months prior. An exact replica of the mRNA Pfizer-BioNTech COVID vaccine, “The booster shot boosts the immune response in populations for whom the shot is administered to,” Middle and Upper School Nurse Jill Yacu said.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that the COVID vaccine booster shots are available for the following Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine recipients who completed their initial series at least six months ago:

  • 65 years and older
  • Age 18+ who live in long-term care settings
  • Age 18+ who have underlying medical conditions
  • Age 18+ who work in high-risk settings
  • Age 18+ who live in high-risk settings

Currently, the FDA has only approved the Pfizer booster. “The issue of the boosters was taken up earlier for the Pfizer vaccine,” Latin’s Senior Medical Advisor Dr. Leslie Cordes said. On October 14, the advisory committee to the FDA voted unanimously to authorize the Moderna shot. The FDA will finalize a decision in the coming days. As for the J&J shot, “The advisory committee will consider authorizing the booster dose for the J&J vaccine on October 15,” Dr. Cordes said.

The CDC conducted a study that states that “COVID-19 vaccines are working well to prevent severe illness, hospitalization, and death, even against the Delta variant.” So receiving a booster shot would increase one’s immune response, given that protection against the virus may decrease over time.

Since Latin switched back to in-person learning in August, mitigation strategies have been put into place to protect students, staff, and faculty. Unvaccinated students must receive a weekly PCR test, and every individual on Latin property must wear a mask when indoors. Latin’s Travel Policy is updated every two weeks to keep up with the ever-changing pandemic status.

Dr. Cordes said, “As of October 6, 95% of students in the Upper School were fully vaccinated, and 98% of seventh-grade and eighth-grade students were fully vaccinated.”

On top of Latin’s COVID safety protocols, “the school does require COVID vaccinations for all eligible employees” (Latin’s COVID-19 Policy). At the moment, Dr. Cordes said, “Latin’s role in the booster shot is to provide information about the vaccine to faculty and staff, and share resources for obtaining the vaccine. We are encouraging teachers and staff to discuss the need for the booster shot with their healthcare providers.”

In regard to providing information to students, Upper School biology teacher Geraldine Schmadeke had her 2020-2021 classes analyze the virus via scientific sources in the media. One topic that particularly resonated with her students was herd immunity—something that occurs when a large portion of a community becomes immune to a disease, making the spread of the disease from person to person unlikely.

“We need to get vaccinated in order to protect those who can’t, like babies, young children, and the immunocompromised,” Ms. Schmadeke said. Receiving a booster shot would hopefully aid the population in obtaining herd immunity, since protection from earlier doses is already wearing off for some.

Senior Lily Harris, a past student of Ms. Schmadeke, said that she is grateful that the booster is now available to faculty and staff. “Not only can teachers and staff protect themselves, but they can also protect others, specifically those who can’t get vaccinated, and ensure that we can stay in-person for as long as possible,” Lily said.

Though the fight against COVID is far from over, “We continue to make small steps in the right direction,” Lily said. “Hopefully the booster shots can help us do that.”