Barnard and Columbia have released guidance on which students are eligible for COVID-19 booster shots, which includes students living in college residence halls. 

In an email sent to Columbia students Thursday morning, Senior Vice President of Columbia Health Melanie Bernitz detailed eligibility for COVID-19 booster shots. These guidelines specified that booster shots are recommended for students “Age 18 and older who work or live in high-risk settings,” which the University claims include undergraduate students living in dorms. 

The email also states that “Students who received a vaccine approved by the World Health Organization (WHO) fulfill the University vaccine mandate so you are NOT required to take further action,” and that boosters are available at Columbia Health if students “wish to be revaccinated.” 

According to a Columbia spokesperson, the new guidance for students living in residence halls “is coming from the CDC because it is a congregate setting where physical distancing and other prevention strategies may be challenging,” referencing the CDC’s guidance for institutions of higher education.

According to a Barnard spokesperson, “Adults ages 18 to 64 who are at increased risk for COVID-19 exposure and transmission may receive a booster shot — and schools are among the settings that could pose elevated risks, according to the CDC. Should there be any changes to or further clarification regarding this public health guidance, the College will update the Barnard community accordingly.”

Barnard students received a similar email on November 5 from Vice President of Health and Wellness and Chief Health Officer Marina Catallozzi, which also clarified that “Adults who live in congregate settings, such as a residence hall, may also consider themselves eligible for a booster vaccine,” and that boosters are available at Primary Care Health Service. Barnard, like Columbia, is not requiring booster shots for students. The full emails sent to students can be read below.

On a page last updated November 9, the CDC outlines that recipients of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are eligible for a booster if they are 65 years of age or older, 18 years of age or older and living with an underlying medical condition, or 18 years of age or older and living or working in a high-risk settings. All recipients of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine as of at least two months ago should get a booster as well. 

The page clarifies that “Adults who work or reside in certain settings (e.g., health care, schools, correctional facilities, homeless shelters) may be at increased risk of being exposed to COVID-19, which could be spreading where they work or reside,” and that these people are eligible for a booster.

This post has been updated as of November 13, 10:58 am, to include the statement from Barnard.  

Email sent to Columbia Students on November 11 at 9:42 am:

Dear Student,

I am writing to provide guidance regarding booster or additional COVID-19 vaccine doses.

Students who received WHO-approved vaccines that are not authorized/approved by the US FDA (i.e., vaccines other than Moderna, Pfizer, J&J)

Students who received a vaccine approved by the World Health Organization (WHO) fulfill the University vaccine mandate so you are NOT required to take further action. The CDC has not yet provided a recommendation on provision of a booster dose to these individuals. However, if you wish to be revaccinated with a US Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved/authorized COVID-19 vaccine, you may now do so at Columbia Health. The minimum interval between receiving the final dose of a non-FDA-approved/authorized vaccine and getting revaccinated with an FDA-approved/authorized vaccine is at least 28 days. Those who completed their vaccine series on or before October 14, 2021 may be eligible.

Students who received US FDA-authorized/approved vaccines (Moderna, Pfizer, J&J)

The US FDA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently authorized a booster dose of the Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson and Johnson (J&J) COVID-19 vaccines. They also provided authorization to receive a booster dose of a vaccine different from the one originally received (mix and match dosing), if the original vaccine formulation received is not readily available.

COVID-19 booster vaccines are recommended for the following students:

  • For students who completed their second dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine at least six months ago (on or before May 11, 2021), and who are in the following categories:
  • For students who received the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine, booster shots are also recommended for those who are 18 and older and who were vaccinated two or more months ago (on or before September 11, 2021).

Where to get a booster if you are eligible

While the University does not currently require booster doses, if you have received one, please upload your documentation so we have your most up to date information. Please use only Part Two in the instructions.

You may visit the CDC website for more information about booster shots.

Be well,

Melanie Bernitz

Senior Vice President, Columbia Health        

Associate Clinical Professor of Medicine (in the Center for Family and Community Medicine)

Email sent to Barnard Students on November 5 at 2:27 pm:

Dear Barnard community,

As the weather gets colder, you are thinking about putting on more layers. It is also a good time to think about layers of protection against COVID-19 and whether or not it is time for your COVID-19 booster shot.

There are three vaccines (Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson) that have been authorized for booster vaccines. Hopefully this communication will help you to decide if it is time for you to consider getting your COVID-19 booster. Vaccines work and because we know that COVID-19 vaccine immunity wanes over time, possibly reducing efficacy against the delta variant, you should boost with an additional dose if you are eligible. Barnard College is not requiring boosters but we want to make sure you have the information you need to make this decision.  

For adults, 18-49 years old, booster shots should be considered for those with underlying medical conditions or with an increased risk for COVID-19 based on their occupation (eg. teachers, education staff, front line workers) or living situation. Adults who live in congregate settings, such as a residence hall, may also consider themselves eligible for a booster vaccine based on this guidance.

Additionally, the CDC has made specific recommendations around boosters:

If you received the Janssen/J&J vaccine, a booster is recommended for all adults 18 years and older after at least two months from the first shot. The booster can be with any of the available vaccines (Janssen, Pfizer or Moderna).
A booster shot is recommended for those who completed the two dose Pfizer or Moderna vaccine series if they are over 65 years old, or over 50 with an underlying medical condition that may predispose them to severe COVID-19 disease. The booster should occur at least six months from the second shot, and any available vaccine can be used.

For your convenience, refer to the CDC guidance on boosters.

Students can get their boosters on-campus at Primary Care Health Service (PCHS) on Fridays by appointment. Call the front desk at 212-854-2091 to make an appointment.

Off-campus appointments and walk-up opportunities for students, faculty, and staff (as well as their families), can be found on these sites:

And don’t forget to get your flu shot – it’s ok to get your flu shot at the same time as your COVID-19 booster.

As always, please reach out with questions.

Wishing you well,

Marina Catallozzi, MD, MSCE

Vice President of Health and Wellness, Chief Health Officer

Image via Bwog Archives