Booster efforts around the state met with high demand


Hannah Donahue

The COVID-19 booster may be available to the public, but students at University of New Hampshire (UNH) are struggling to secure appointments as local health care facilities can’t meet demand.   

Medical Director of the University of New Hampshire (UNH) Health & Wellness Peter Degnan said the UNH booster clinic is seeing “unprecedented demand.” Likewise, the New Hampshire Booster Blitz program and pharmacies are also being heavily booked. This comes at a time when both UNH and statewide cases are rising.  

Degnan said the limiting factor for their booster program is not a shortage of the vaccine but a lack of staffing. UNH’s vaccination clinics last spring were facilitated by the nursing department, Health & Wellness and the Strafford County Public Health Alliance. However, due to this year’s more demanding academic schedule and external staffing issues, In an email from Chief of UNH Police Paul Dean, he detailed that UNH was able to host the New Hampshire Mobile Vaccine Van on Sunday, Dec. 12 for students to receive their booster due to the limited availability of appointments thus far. He also shared a link containing other opportunities for students to get vaccinated locally. 

Health & Wellness had administered 190 boosters to faculty, students and staff so far. 

Degnan attributes the high demand to the CDC’s new recommendation that all individuals who are 18 years or older and are six months from their second Pfizer or Moderna vaccination or two months following their Johnson & Johnson vaccination, should receive a booster. 

Students also struggled to receive a booster shot from the Booster Blitz due to no sites being located in Durham, Portsmouth or Dover. The Booster Blitz was scheduled for Dec. 11 and was designed to boost 10,000 individuals. The closest sites to the campus were located in Stratham and Rochester.  

Juan Rojo is a clinical assistant professor of Molecular, Cellular, and Biomedical Sciences.  Rojo said crowded living conditions like dorms make college students particularly susceptible to getting coronavirus. Another factor is that college-aged individuals will tend to have more mature immune systems, which can lead to more asymptomatic cases and a greater spread of the virus. 

As the year draws to a close, a positive COVID-19 test may also cause other complications. “The testing program will continue to operate through 12/22, so it is conceivable that if someone tests positive late in the semester, they may require isolation over the holidays,” said Degnan.  

The isolation policy stipulates students who test positive must isolate for 10 days. “On-campus residents have the option of isolating at Adams Tower West, or a suitable alternative location ie. their home. Off-campus students may isolate at their off-campus address, or another suitable location,” said Degnan. 

To combat the possibility of isolation Degnan advises the following. “Wearing a mask indoors whenever possible, avoiding large gatherings especially if people are not wearing masks, and keeping hands clean are essential. If one becomes ill, dropping a test and/or seeking out medical care at H&W is always advised,” said Degnan.