On Oct. 11, 2022, the FDA approved the newest COVID-19 booster for children ages five and up. With the rise of influenza cases and new RSV cases, the importance of vaccines and boosters is at the forefront of health professionals’ concerns. Cabrini’s director of health services, Kimberly Perry-Malloy, R.N., checked recommendations from Johns Hopkins University and the Center for Disease Control, CDC, for advice on the new bivalent booster.
According to Johns Hopkins, “the bivalent booster is the most recent version of the COVID-19 vaccine. It contains both the original vaccine strain [of the virus] and a strain derived from the BA.5 omicron variant, which is currently dominating here in the U.S., so that we can maximize protection against severe disease and potentially from infection.”
Perry-Malloy added, “The bivalent booster should be given two to three months after receipt of the most recent monovalent vaccine, per the CDC.”
Similar to what was done in the past, Cabrini University’s health department held two clinics, one on Oct. 3 and another on Nov. 1, where students could get free vaccines with proof of insurance. According to Perry-Malloy, the future of these clinics is up to the students and making connections with local vaccine suppliers.
Plans for the future
“At this point in time, we do not have another vaccine clinic scheduled. If the students would like to have another vaccine clinic, I can definitely look into one for the spring semester. We used Springfield Pharmacy for the fall clinics. We reach out to local pharmacies for availability and to check costs before scheduling with a particular company,” Perry-Malloy said.
Cabrini has done a great job at keeping cases low; if cases do happen to come up, the health department has a sufficient way of keeping track.
“Cabrini is using a tracking sheet for COVID-19 cases … Cabrini has seen a decrease in COVID-19 cases recently, but we are seeing an increase in suspected influenza and RSV cases,” Perry-Malloy said.
Importance of vaccinations
Dr. Richard Hamilton, chair of the emergency medicine department at Drexel University College of Medicine, explained the importance of getting vaccines and boosters.
“These vaccines are extremely helpful in giving your immune system the ability to respond quickly to an infection from COVID-19 or influenza. The way they do that is by creating a mild immune response which is then stored in the memory of the immune system. So, when you do get infected or are exposed to the virus, your body has a set of antibodies and cellular responses ready to go,” Hamilton said.
“If you don’t get vaccinated, your immune system has never seen this particular virus, so the body has no defense, and the virus multiplies very quickly. All the multiplication, inflammation, and the tissue damage that occurs [from the virus] starts causing so much damage that your immune system cannot overcome it,” Hamilton said.
Hamilton also talked about the many cases in which the symptoms of vaccination recipients differ from those who are unvaccinated.
“Even for people who get an infection, and they feel it, if they’ve been vaccinated, the infection isn’t as severe,” Hamilton said.
On the off chance, a new outbreak does occur, Cabrini’s health team will do all they can to suppress it.
“We would use the same monitoring system,” Perry-Malloy said. “The guidance for how to suppress it would be determined by the Office of Public Health and CDC. The decision would also be discussed with the COVID-19 team to determine next steps on how to proceed and protect the Cabrini community.”