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Booster Shot Not Yet Mandatory, Health Services Executive Director Says

University Health Services Executive Director Giang T. Nguyen said he was unsure when Harvard would lift its indoor mask mandate.
University Health Services Executive Director Giang T. Nguyen said he was unsure when Harvard would lift its indoor mask mandate. By Shera S. Avi-Yonah
By Claire H. Guo, Crimson Staff Writer

Harvard will not make Covid-19 booster shots mandatory anytime soon, University Health Services Executive Director Giang T. Nguyen said in a Thursday interview.

Though Nguyen said HUHS does not have “any intention right now of making booster shots mandatory,” he encouraged individuals to monitor their booster shot eligibility and consider getting one if eligible.

“It’s not something that you have to rush out to get right now. And anyone who really is eager to do it soon can do it at a commercial pharmacy free of charge, so that is an option as well if you don’t want to wait to get a booster through HUHS,” Nguyen said.

Nguyen also explained that anyone 18 years and older who had the Johnson & Johnson vaccine for their first dose is now eligible to receive a booster shot. He recommended Pfizer or Moderna shot for their second dose due to a greater immune response from mRNA vaccines.

For individuals who received Pfizer or Moderna for their first round of vaccine doses, the CDC does not recommend any particular brand for the booster shot.

While HUHS plans to offer booster shots in the future, Nguyen said it is still focused on providing primary Covid-19 doses as well as flu shots, which Harvard students are required to receive by Dec. 1 to avoid a registration hold being placed on their account.

Nguyen encouraged students to get their flu shot and report it on the patient portal a few weeks before the deadline to avoid any processing delays.

“Especially if you get your flu shot outside of HUHS, it does take time to process the paperwork,” Nguyen said. “If we get thousands of papers submitted all at once at the last minute, they are not going to get processed the minute they arrive.”

Nguyen said he was unsure when Harvard would lift its indoor mask mandate.

“I can’t predict a specific timeline, but we can’t have a mask mandate forever. That’s just not realistic,” Nguyen said. “But we have to really make our decisions based on what’s happening around us and so for the time being, we don’t have a good reason to lift all of our mask requirements.”

As of Oct. 8, Harvard’s vaccination rate stands at 96 percent for students and 97 percent for employees.

Nguyen said the small percentage of unvaccinated affiliates consists largely of students who are enrolled but are not on campus, along with students trying to secure a vaccination after coming from locations where the vaccine was not readily accessible.

“We have continued to vaccinate people from our communities every week, in fact, throughout the term,” Nguyen said. “Even up until this month, we’ve been vaccinating people, and we continue to vaccinate more. And I anticipate that numbers will continue to edge up a little bit as we go on.”

—Staff writer Claire H. Guo can be reached at claire.guo@thecrimson.com. Follow her on Twitter @clairehguo.

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