Tips for staying healthy over winter break

Staying healthy over winter break

After a hectic fall semester, Binghamton University wishes you a well-deserved and healthy winter break. With the onset of what may be another wave of COVID-19 and the identification of the Omicron variant, these are some things to keep in mind as you enjoy your time away from campus. The successful completion of an in-person spring semester depends on all of us maximizing our resistance to developing COVID-19.  

Booster doses

Current medical evidence shows that, over time, COVID-19 antibody levels in your bloodstream drop around six months after receiving an mRNA vaccine (Pfizer or Moderna) or two months after a viral vector vaccine (Johnson & Johnson/Janssen). Falling antibody levels may lessen your resistance to developing COVID-19. Vaccine boosters are administered to remind the body’s immune system of the virus it is intended to fight. This improves or gives the immune system a “boost” leading to an increase in antibody levels. 

At this time there is no mandate from SUNY to receive a COVID-19 booster vaccine, though such a mandate is possible in the future and the University strongly recommends those eligible to receive one. If such a mandate is enacted, Binghamton University will move to ensure it is implemented as quickly as possible. Obtaining your booster vaccine as soon as you are eligible, and uploading proof of having done so to the student health portal, may make it easier for you in the future. Monitor your communications from Binghamton University frequently during the winter break for any new recommendations regarding booster doses.  

  • As of Dec. 9, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), as well as the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP), added individuals age 16 and 17 to its recommendation for booster doses. The CDC now recommends that all persons aged 16 years and older should receive a booster dose of COVID-19 vaccine based on how long it has been since their primary series of vaccines:
Vaccine manufacturer

Interval between last primary vaccine  (including additional) to booster dose


Pfizer-BioNTech

≥ 6 months

Moderna

≥ 6 months

Janssen (J & J)

≥ 2 months

  • Eligible individuals may choose which vaccine to receive as a booster dose, although 16- and 17-year-olds may only receive the Pfizer vaccine. Some people may prefer to get the one that matches the vaccine type they originally received, while others may prefer to get a different one for their booster.
  • Booster doses for international students are somewhat complicated. If you began your COVID-19 vaccines in your country of origin and then had to receive a full series of vaccines in the U.S. (i.e, you have already received three or more doses of a COVID-19 vaccine), the CDC does NOT recommend for you to receive a booster dose. If this is not the case, you are eligible to receive one.
  • People who are 16 years of age or older who received a COVID-19 vaccine as part of a clinical trial should speak with their primary care provider to determine if they should get a booster. 

Pandemic considerations

  • Avoid large gatherings. Given the current prevalence of the COVID-19 virus in our communities, if you are in a group of people, you ARE being exposed to COVID-19. Keep this in mind.  
  • Vaccination against COVID-19 reduces your risk from developing COVID-19. It does not mean you cannot get COVID-19. Act accordingly. 
  • If you must be in a group, wear a mask. Masks are highly effective at preventing the transmission of respiratory illnesses. 
  • If you eat at an event, consider the food to be “grab and go” after you are done socializing. A group of people with their masks off to eat is a very high-risk activity for the spread of COVID-19.   
  • Stay within your “bubble.” Introducing new people to your social group increases the risk you are bringing in someone with COVID-19.
  • If you develop any symptoms of COVID-19, even if they are mild, get a test. Some people can have the infection and be completely asymptomatic. Therefore, even mild symptoms can indicate you are infected with the COVID-19 virus.  
  • Symptoms of COVID-19 do not have to be severe. Typical “cold” symptoms are often due to COVID-19 in young, healthy people. Get a test as soon as possible if you develop ANY of the following symptoms, even if they are mild:
      • Cough
      • Sore throat
      • Nasal congestion/runniness
      • Fever or chills
      • Nausea or vomiting
      • Muscle aches
      • Shortness of breath
      • New loss of taste or smell

Travel

  • Travel should be undertaken only if it is necessary.
  • Uncertainties about the course of the pandemic, including the unknown ways in which the emergence of the Omicron variant will affect it, could disrupt travel plans. If you must travel, consider purchasing tickets that are changeable and travel insurance.
  • Keep in mind your return home may be delayed. Give yourself enough time to return to campus if something goes wrong.
  • International travel is especially risky for several reasons. There is uncertainty of border closures/travel restrictions, variability regarding the availability of consular services (many embassies may be closed or have limited services) and the ability to re-enter the United States. 
  • Keep in mind you will need to have a COVID-19 test performed within 24 hours of boarding your return flight. How will you manage your situation if you test positive?
  • When making plans to travel, take into consideration the incidence of COVID-19 in the community you wish to visit.  

Influenza

  • Get a flu shot to:
      • minimize the spread of influenza in your community.
      • minimize your risk for developing this infection and missing out on a week of classes due to illness!

We wish you safe travel, rest and relaxation with your friends and family over the holidays, and a safe return to campus. In the meantime, take care, be well and we will see you in January.

Sincerely,

Johann Fiore-Conte
Associate Vice President for Student Affairs and Chief Health and Wellness Officer

Richard Moose, MD
Medical Director