UArizona to Offer Pfizer Boosters to Eligible Students, Employees

a man getting the COVID-19 vaccine

A COVID-19 vaccine is administered on the UArizona campus during the spring 2021 semester.

Chris Richards/University of Arizona

The University of Arizona will offer third doses of Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine beginning Oct. 11 to students and employees who qualify.

Booster shots are recommended for those who received their second vaccine dose at least six months ago and are either 65 years of age or older, or are between 50 and 64 and have underlying medical conditions. The shots will be offered through Campus Health, and appointments are available on the Campus Health website.

Those who are between 18 and 49 and have underlying medical conditions or may be at increased risk for exposure due to a work or living situation may also benefit from a booster and should talk with their health care provider, University of Arizona President Robert C. Robbins said in a virtual briefing Monday. 

The university also continues to offer initial doses of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines to students, benefits-eligible employees and designated campus colleagues.

"The best way to continue improving our public health situation is just to get vaccinated. If you've not already been vaccinated, please get vaccinated," Robbins said. "Continue to wear a face covering in public, regardless of your vaccination status."

Robbins said more than 75% of Pima County residents 12 and older have now received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, and the county's Rt value, which refers to the average number of people infected by a single COVID-positive person, has been below 1 for several weeks – at 0.93 this week.

While that number is relatively low, the county is still considered to have high transmission, with more than 100 cases per 100,000 people, said Pima County Health Department Director Dr. Theresa Cullen, who joined Robbins and 17th U.S. Surgeon General and Distinguished Professor of Public Health Dr. Richard Carmona at the briefing.

More than 1,000 positive cases are being reported a week in Pima County, Cullen said.

"Our goal is, obviously, to be in low transmission, and you will recall we have been there we have been at times less than 50 cases per 100,000," Cullen said.

Although Pima County is "on the right path" and doing better than Arizona overall, there is some "bumping" occurring, with case numbers going up and down, Cullen said. The delta variant is especially problematic.

"The delta variant has higher transmissibility," Cullen said. "That means more people get infected if an individual has that, and so what we need is a higher rate of vaccination."

In addition to the COVID-19 vaccine, the university is offering seasonal flu shot clinics for students and employees. Information about flu shots for students can be found on the Campus Health website. Information for employees is available through Life & Work Connections.

"The onset of the influenza season adds another challenge for our health care system, and I encourage all of you to get a regular flu vaccine – a flu shot – to minimize the influenza impact," Robbins said.

Testing and Mental Health Resources Remain Available

In-person COVID-19 testing for students and employees continues to be available on campus, and the university's TakeAway Testing Program is growing in popularity, Robbins said.

The TakeAway Tests, which launched the week of Sept. 13, involve swishing and gargling a saline solution before spitting it into a tube. The test can be completed anywhere and then returned to a designated campus location for analysis. No appointment is required.

Robbins noted that mental health resources also continue to be available on campus amid the pandemic.

"The pandemic has taken a toll on each and every one of us. No one's escaped the stress and the mental health effects of this pandemic, and it's important to acknowledge the impact on our mental and well-being," Robbins said.

Students can access professional mental health support through Counseling & Psych Services at Campus Health, and employees can go through Life & Work Connections.

Robbins also noted that this year's popular College of Social and Behavioral Sciences Downtown Lecture Series, which kicks off Oct. 6, will focus on compassion, which he said is a "really important value for the University of Arizona and a vital practice for all of us in the midst of the challenges we face during this pandemic."