The return to school has brought the annual bout of sickness transmitted throughout the community. It is a continuous cycle, as college students are always in close contact with peers and run-down immune systems make them susceptible to catching whatever is going around.
The role of vaccinations as a means for members of a community to protect themselves and one another has been at the forefront of conversations surrounding Covid-19. While the Coronavirus pandemic continues, it is important to anticipate the effects of flu season on campus. One of the first steps that students can, and should if they are able, take to protect themselves and the community is to get their flu shot.
The annual flu shot clinic will be held on Tuesday, October 4 from 8 AM to 4 PM in the Carr Center. Although the College does not require the flu vaccine, the presence of a clinic on campus suggests support of the vaccine in general for those who are able to get it. Access to a flu vaccine is a privilege for students and makes it much easier for students to protect themselves since they don’t have to worry about driving home.
Of course, vaccinations are a personal medical decision and people have their own reasons for getting or not getting a given vaccine. Some people question whether or not the vaccine really works or how effective it may be because there are multiple strains of flu. Last year I got the flu even after I got vaccinated and I too found myself questioning, so I did some research. According to the CDC, the flu vaccination prevented an estimated 7.5 million influenza illnesses in the 2019-2020 flu season (pre-Covid) and can reduce the risk of flu illness by 40-60% depending on the viruses circulating that season.
One issue that people have with the flu vaccine is the (educated) guessing game of scientists predicting which strain will be abundant and therefore which vaccine to administer. It is possible to get the vaccine and then get sick with the flu if your vaccine doesn’t match with the strand going around in your area, but the CDC says that it can still protect against other flu viruses that circulate at the time. Also, CDC studies show that the flu vaccine reduces the number of hospitalizations and the risk of complications for people with pre-existing conditions.
I am no medical professional, hence the references to data from studies by actual medical professionals, but I do believe that getting the flu shot can be beneficial for personal and communal health on campus. By getting your flu shot, you reduce your risk for contracting the virus and therefore reduce the risk of transmitting the virus to your neighbors. This brief article barely skimmed the surface of the plethora of research on the flu vaccine. I would highly encourage you to learn more about the vaccines, ask questions to medical professionals in your life, and consider getting a flu shot this year.