Flu shots on campus
Sam Tapper – Managing Editor
Amid the ongoing global pandemic, almost all the current health concerns stem from attempting to prevent the spread COVID-19. With winter just a few weeks away, flu season is now upon us.
On Wednesday, Oct. 28, pharmacists from ShopRite in Hamden, Conn. came to set up and administer a flu shot clinic. The group of pharmacists were on campus for about four hours not only distributing shots to students, faculty and staff for free, but also serving as a reminder the flu still exists despite all the talk of COVID-19, and it is still crucial that people protect themselves from it.
“Honestly, [COVID-19] has probably heightened people’s awareness of the importance of getting their vaccines,” said John McCarthy, one of Shop Rite’s pharmacists who helped run the clinic. “That’s been my experience at the pharmacy, you can’t yet protect yourself against COVID with a vaccine, people are looking to kind of do what they can to protect themselves from everything else.”
The flu, which is officially known as influenza, is a viral respiratory infection that is highly contagious, not unlike COVID-19. The similarities between the two viruses and their symptoms are one of the greater concerns heading into this flu season. People may not be able to tell the difference should they start experiencing any symptoms.
However, the advantage to having flu shots readily available is that it helps ease that concern; if everybody gets their flu vaccines, any symptoms can be clearly traced to COVID-19, and thus, not occupying much needed hospital beds with influenza patients.
“There is a lot of overlap [with symptoms]; a fever is present in both, difficulty breathing can be present in both, it’s more common in COVID,” McCarthy said. “So basically, if you have symptoms of the flu, you may want to look into getting a COVID test to be sure that you don’t have COVID because it is so contagious, most important thing I could say is: wear a mask because it protects against both. Distance from other people because it protects against both.”
All that was needed to receive the shot was a valid health insurance card followed by a brief questionnaire.
Crowds seemed to come to the clinic in waves based on class schedules, as there were periods where the Bagel Wagon was cavernous and times when the line was long. The consensus among those in line was that getting a flu shot should be a priority for everyone this year.
“I think it’s important to get the flu shot, especially this year with COVID, because the symptoms are so similar, they’re encouraging people to get flu shots even if they haven’t in the past,” said Susan Cusato, a professor in the Department of Environment, Geography and Marine Studies. “This year it’s even more important to get it because if you end up with certain symptoms, you want to at least be somewhat sure you don’t have the regular flu. And then you can behave accordingly whether you think you have something more serious or not. I think it’s just a good year to get your vaccines.”
There has long been a debate about flu shots and whether they work. Special education major Hanna Forsten, a junior, regularly gets the vaccine and has first-hand experience that the shots do what experts say they do.
“My first year of college, I ended up not getting [a flu shot], because it was just wrong place, wrong time,” said Forsten, “and I got really sick; 102 fever, headaches – the worst headaches – and I threw up a bunch. I still went to college because I had a math exam and I wasn’t going to miss that but, after that I was like ‘you know what, I’m never going to miss it again’ because it just wasn’t worth it.”
This clinic is ShopRite’s third and final clinic on campus this semester. They have been coming to campus for the past several years, and that partnership is planned to continue next fall as well, according to McCarthy.
“Given the current times, having to make a special trip to go get a flu shot is probably not on most people’s lists of things to do, especially younger people,” he said. “I think having the ability to come and just get it when you’re here on campus makes it very convenient for people.”