UT-Austin offers third doses, booster shots of COVID-19 vaccine for eligible patients

Leila Saidane, News reporter

Editor’s Note: This article first appeared in the October 19 flipbook.

UT began offering third doses and booster shots of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine to eligible individuals on campus last month. 

Moderately to severely immunocompromised people are eligible for a third dose. Those 65 or older or anyone who spends time in high-risk settings such as hospitals are eligible for a booster six months after their second shot, according to CDC guidelines. Additionally, the Food and Drug Administration panel voted Friday to authorize booster shots for anyone who received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine two or more months ago.

Karen Geiger, clinic operations supervisor for the UT vaccination clinic, said they are recommending boosters to raise the levels of waning antibodies seen 6 months after the second shot. For immunocompromised patients, the third dose will give this group the same level of antibody protection as those in the general population who received two doses.

Ilya Finkelstein, a researcher and molecular biosciences associate professor, said third shots are critical for the immunocompromised population who did not receive a protective level of antibodies from the initial two doses.

“The way to break the chains of transmission to grandma, to your family, and to your classmates, to an immunocompromised person whom you may never know, is to get vaccinated,” Finkelstein said. “That’s how you get personal protection, that’s how you protect the community around you.” 

Psychology senior AT Tinoco, who is immunocompromised, said he got his third dose of the COVID-19 vaccine early October. If Tinoco contracted COVID-19, he said at best he would be hospitalized and at worst it would be fatal. 

“People are like, ‘oh the pandemic is over,’” Tinoco said. “Maybe it’s over for you, but it’s not over for people who are disabled, chronically ill, immunocompromised, and the elderly…” 

Tinoco said the public should consider the safety of immunocompromised individuals more.

“Just because we are a minority doesn’t make … our voices any less deserving, and it doesn’t make our lives any less worthy.” 

Getting a third dose or booster shot in the U.S. does not take away developing countries’ access to vaccinations, Finkelstein said. 

“The doses are going to expire,” Finkelstein said. “The UT Health Clinic overestimated the demand, those (vaccines) aren’t going to get flown over to a third world country, those are going to be thrown into the trash. So, on the ground, get the shot.”