COVID-19 update: This is still a vaccination story

Dear Campus Community,

I hope all is well with all of you as we keep moving forward in yet another semester impacted by COVID-19. As all of you know, this summer was brutal in Florida with regard to COVID, with unprecedented rates of new infections and record numbers of hospitalizations. So, after this rough couple of months, it is great to report some good news. It appears that the delta wave is passing quickly, as predicted. Countywide positivity rates are down to 6%, less than a quarter of what they were a month or so ago. The number of people hospitalized with COVID is also way down here at UF Health as well as statewide. Here again the number of hospitalized patients with active COVID is about one quarter of what it was in early September, and we expect that to continue to drop fast over the next few weeks.

This is Still a Vaccination Story

Despite the good news, there are tens of thousands in our community, both on and off campus, who remain unvaccinated. We are still not making enough headway on vaccines and the pace of new vaccinations has slowed to a crawl, although our vaccination rates on campus, as best we can tell, are better than the vaccination rates statewide. As you may have heard, the FDA and the CDC have approved a COVID-19 booster vaccine under an emergency use authorization, or EUA. Getting fully vaccinated with a COVID vaccine continues to be the most important protective measure, coupled with the use of masks and other interventions such as being outside whenever possible and staying home and getting tested if you have any signs or symptoms of COVID. 

Details About Boosters and Where to Get Them

Those who received the Pfizer vaccine and are at least two weeks post having received two doses of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine are considered fully vaccinated and a booster dose is a consideration for those meeting eligibility criteria. The booster vaccine is authorized for individuals who are fully vaccinated with the Pfizer vaccine (now known as Comirnaty), received their second dose at least six months ago and meet specific eligibility criteria. The criteria for a booster vaccine are different from those for a third dose of the Moderna or Pfizer vaccines, which was previously recommended for those who were immunocompromised. 

Guidance on what to do if you received a Moderna or Johnson & Johnson vaccine will be forthcoming soon, but in the meantime the guidance below is only for those who have completed the Pfizer series. 

Those who should receive the Pfizer booster vaccine if it has been at least six months since they received their second dose include people:

  • 65 years of age and older or in a long-term care facility
  • 50 to 64 years of age with underlying medical conditions that place them at high risk of severe COVID-19

Those who may receive the Pfizer booster vaccine if it has been at least six months since they received their second dose include people:

  • 18 to 49 years of age with underlying medical conditions that place them at high risk of severe COVID-19, based on individual benefit and risk
  • 18 to 64 years of age at risk for COVID due to their workplace/institutional setting; this includes all health care workers

Patients meeting the eligibility criteria will be able to get their Pfizer booster vaccine at some UF Health outpatient pharmacies and UF Health Physicians practices. An appointment is required at physician practice sites. View UF Health Physicians practices offering boosters.

For UF Health Faculty and Staff

COVID-19 booster vaccines are available at the UF Health Shands Cancer Hospital Auxiliary Conference Room for those meeting the above criteria. Booster vaccines will be offered on a walk-up basis Monday through Friday, from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. 

Please note that UF Health plans to hold pop-up COVID booster vaccine clinics at some of our larger offsite locations in the near future. Details will be shared when plans are finalized.

For Non-UF Health Faculty and Staff Meeting Eligibility Criteria

  • Booster vaccines are available at the UF Health Pharmacy – Medical Plaza (1549 Gale Lemerand Drive) on the first floor between 9 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. Monday, Wednesday and Friday. No appointment is necessary. Also, the Student Health Care Center is offering boosters. 
  • Retail pharmacies (CVS, Publix, Walgreens, etc.) will also be offering booster shots to all who meet the above criteria. 

Because we will not vaccinate our way out of the pandemic by boosters alone, we will keep working to increase the numbers of people getting their first dose. More on this in a later update. In the meantime, feel free to reach out to us if you have any questions or if we can help in any way. 

Lastly, flu season is around the corner and it is time to get your annual flu shot. The CDC recently changed its guidance and you can get your flu shot at the same time as you get your COVID shot if you have not been vaccinated yet. The same is true for booster shots. 

Stay well.

Michael Lauzardo, MD, MSc
Director, UF Health Screen, Test & Protect
Deputy Director, Emerging Pathogens Institute
Associate Professor, Division of Infectious Diseases and Global Medicine
UF College of Medicine