Harding’s International Programs (IP) is encouraging students who are planning to travel abroad in the spring semester to get their COVID-19 booster shots.
On Nov. 29, IP director Audra Pleasant sent out a statement to students going abroad saying that a growing number of countries have started imposing booster shot requirements. She said she wanted to encourage students to get their booster shots if they were eligible to make sure their vaccine status would be accepted through each program’s end date.
“Our policies so far have matched what we need to do for students to enter a country successfully and be able to see all the things they want to see when they’re there,” Pleasant said. “We’ll continue to modify our requirements and expectations as countries continue to modify theirs.”
Pleasant said that in order to stay updated on vaccine requirements, IP constantly monitors all of the countries that programs are located in, as well as countries that potentially could be visited. For the spring semester, programs will be located in Peru, Greece and Italy and will be traveling to Argentina, Egypt and Israel, and across Europe, respectively.
“We want to make sure a student won’t be caught during the semester not being able to access things they want to do or trying to get a booster shot in another country because of vaccine requirements,” Pleasant said. “It will be much simpler and make people feel more comfortable to receive the booster at home. Right now it’s not required to go, but it is recommended.”
Dr. Julie Hixson-Wallace, professor of pharmacy, said that the booster shot is specifically for people who have received either the first two doses of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines or the first dose of the Johnson and Johnson vaccine.
“The first doses get you to a consistent level of good antibodies that help protect you, but over time those antibodies need a little bit of boosting,” Hixson-Wallace said. “The booster shot helps bump your immunity level back up and extends how long your vaccination works at the level it did when you first got vaccinated.”
Hixson-Wallace also said there has been some confusion between the booster shot and a third dose. She said that the third dose is intended for those who are immunocompromised, as it takes these people three doses of the vaccines to get to the same immunity level as it takes most people with two doses.
The College of Pharmacy held its last COVID-19 vaccination clinic on Nov. 30. There is another clinic today, from 2 to 4 p.m. by appointment only.
International programs at Oklahoma Christian University have recently made changes to their trip to Europe. Typically, Oklahoma Christian offers study abroad programs every semester in Asia, Europe and Central America. All of these programs have halted since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
John Osborne, director of international programs at Oklahoma Christian, said the school had planned to resume programs this month. After ending their in-person semester at the start of Thanksgiving break, students were given an opportunity to study abroad at the Vienna, Austria, campus during a longer break this winter. But, on Nov. 19, Austria announced a national lockdown, for both vaccinated and unvaccinated people, to start on Nov. 22 and last three weeks.
“That changed everything for us,” Osborne said. “We could get into the country but we couldn’t have a viable program.”
In spring 2020, Osborne, Pleasant and the directors of the international programs at Lipscomb University, Abilene Christian University and Pepperdine University began monthly group phone calls to share information and keep each other informed. The day before Austria made the announcement, Osborne was on one of those calls. When he brought up their potential issue, Pleasant volunteered to help.
Now, Oklahoma Christian’s group of 49 will be studying in Greece for three weeks, and staying in the Artemis, the Harding University Greece campus.
Osborne said that this opportunity saved their trip and made it possible for the students to be able to study abroad for the first time in nearly two years.
“Since that moment, Audra and her team have been incredibly helpful and generous with their time,” Osborne said. “I’m so thankful that Harding is willing to share their space. It saved our trip.”