Health & Wellness at the University of New Hampshire (UNH) is now offering Moderna and Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 booster shots to UNH community members. Individuals over 18, residing or working in a school setting or who have received a Moderna or Pfizer vaccine at least six months ago are eligible for the booster shot.  Individuals who received Johnson and Johnson (J&J) only need to wait two months for a booster. 

Shots are available every Friday at Health & Wellness. Medical Director of Health & Wellness Peter Degnan said so far about  50 individuals have received their booster through Health & Wellness, despite being into its third week of offering COVID-19 boosters. Degnan said many others have received their boosters through local pharmacies. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has determined that it is safe to “mix and match” vaccine brands, meaning the brand of the booster shot does not need to be the same as the brand from a person’s initial shot. 

According to Degnan, the majority of students on campus have received the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine, fewer have received Moderna and Janssen/J&J vaccine recipients make up the smallest group. 

According to Health &Wellness, they are only offering Moderna or Janssen/J&J vaccines due to a lack of freezers capable to house Pfizer. Individuals desiring Pfizer will have to visit a local pharmacy.  

Degnan said although they are trying to provide as many shots as possible, shots can be wasted if they are not used quickly. “The goal is to make as many booster doses available as desired, but at the same time minimizing any vaccine wastage. Once a COVID vaccine vial is opened, it must be discarded within 8 hours regardless of how many doses are dispensed,” he said.  

Similarly to the original shot, Degnan said recipients of the booster should expect to feel somewhat sick. That’s one of the reasons the shots are only available on Friday. “Common side effects to receiving the COVID vaccine include pain at the injection site, and less often redness and localized swelling. Occasionally one may experience tiredness, headache, muscle pain, chills/fever, and nausea,” said Degnan. 

These reactions are  a sign the vaccine is working, said UNH Professor of Molecular, Cellular, and Biomedical Sciences Megan Enos-Fournier. “It sounds counterintuitive, but it’s good that you don’t feel well after getting a vaccine. That means your immune system is recognizing that there is something foreign in your body and building a response against it,” said Enos-Fournier. 

Enos-Fournier added she wouldn’t be surprised if COVID-19 boosters become an annual occurrence.  

In terms of choosing which booster you want, Degnan said it is up to you. However, he added that some may want to stay with their original vaccine. “For those who are fully vaccinated with Pfizer or Moderna (mRNA vaccine), some public health experts recommend receiving a booster of the same vaccine,” said Degnan. However, Enos-Fournier said that so far the data has shown that it is of little importance; the important part being getting the shot.  

Alternatively the N.H. State Mobile Vaccination Van will be coming to the Hamel Recreation Center on Saturday Nov. 20 from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m. and will be able to provide both boosters and primary shots. No appointment will be necessary.