Campus Health Update: Booster Eligibility, Test Center Hours, Omicron Variant

December 03, 2021

 

CDC Recommends COVID-19 Boosters

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) now recommends COVID-19 booster doses for all individuals who are 18 years and older. Although a booster dose is not yet required by the university, we strongly encourage you to receive one. Once you have completed your booster, please upload your booster documentation to the medical portal. 

Booster doses of all three vaccines are available in the District at the GW Medical Faculty Associates’ (MFA). Additional information is available online.

In Virginia, GW Nursing is partnering with My Dr's Pharmacy to administer COVID-19 boosters; appointments are required.

Many local health departments, retail pharmacies and doctors offices also offer the COVID-19 booster. 

Completion of an initial vaccination series plus a six-month booster as recommended by the CDC remains the best way to protect yourself from all variants of COVID-19, including the Omicron variant. Immune protection from vaccines decreases after six months, so a booster shot is an important way to stay protected.  Although vaccinated people can get breakthrough COVID-19 infections, they are typically mild and still relatively uncommon. All of the FDA authorized vaccines remain very effective at preventing severe COVID-19 resulting in hospitalization or death against the currently circulating COVID-19 variants.

We urge all members of the GW community to continue to exercise caution and reduce COVID-19 exposure risk through the use of vaccination (primary + booster), attention to masking in public spaces on campus, in transit and as directed by local and state health departments,  and testing as directed (for those on campus who are required to test periodically).  
 


 

Modified Testing Center Hours for Winter Break

The GW COVID-19 test centers will close on Thursday, December 23, and will reopen the week of January 3. 

Please note that if you require a COVID-19 test prior to travel, you should schedule your test 48-72 hours in advance of your trip. All results for tests performed by 7 p.m. on Wednesday, December 22, will be available by late Thursday, December 23.

If your next test due date falls over the Winter Break period, we recommend that you schedule your test for the first day you return to campus to restore campus access. It will take about an hour from when you test until your GWorld card is activated. Appointments are available online now through January. 

Additional information about testing following Winter Break is forthcoming. 

 


 

Omicron Variant

The Omicron variant of COVID-19 has recently been classified as a variant of concern by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the CDC, and our medical and public health experts are closely monitoring all developments.  Through our Public Health Lab, we are able to conduct genetic sequencing, and screening of positive cases in the past month shows no cases of the Omicron variant detected so far at GW. This fall, nearly all positive cases of COVID-19 our campuses have been due to the Delta variant. We will monitor cases and as always will continue to assess whether any additional safeguards are necessary.

The concerning feature of the Omicron variant is that it has a large number of mutations in the spike protein, which is how COVID-19 attaches to cells to infect people. COVID-19 vaccines work by inducing antibodies to the spike protein to help prevent infection. Theoretically, the mutations in the spike protein of the Omicron variant could alter how easily the virus spreads, the severity of illness it causes, and alter the effectiveness of vaccines.

The Omicron variant was first identified in South Africa where there has been a recent surge in COVID-19 cases. It has now been reported in over 20 countries. The first confirmed cases in the U.S. occurred recently in several states, but the Omicron variant has not been detected in D.C., Maryland or Virginia at this time. According to the CDC, the Omicron variant may spread more easily than the Delta and other variants. Due to the low number of cases so far, the severity of illness related to the Omicron variant remains unclear. Most of the Omicron variant cases reported to date are among people who are not fully vaccinated, and studies are underway to understand how well current vaccines protect against it. Although breakthrough infections in fully vaccinated people have been reported, the current FDA-authorized vaccines are expected to be effective against severe illness or death from Omicron.

 


 

Additional Resources

  • Visitor Requirements: If you are hosting visitors on campus, please be mindful of the university’s visitor requirements and ensure guests complete GW’s visitor form.
  • New International Travel Entry Requirements: Starting December 6, 2021, all air passengers, including U.S. citizens, regardless of vaccination status, must show a negative COVID-19 test taken no more than one day before travel to the United States.