Health Services to provide free flu shots for students next week
Published: Wednesday, September 19, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, September 19, 2012 10:09
After close to half of the student body took advantage of the program last year, Wellesley’s Health Services is once again offering free flu shots to students. Students will be able to walk in and receive a shot from Monday, Sept. 24 to Friday, Sept. 28, with no appointment needed.
Wellesley began offering flu shots for free three years ago, after the H1N1 flu outbreak in 2009 heightened people’s awareness of the severity of the flu. “That really opened students’ eyes to the fact that the flu is highly communicable, and we had hundreds of students sick at the same time with the same thing,” Clinical Coordinator Lisa Keefe said.
Flu symptoms include a fever, a sore throat, coughing, headaches and body aches. Dr. Vanessa Britto, director of Health Services, describes the flu as a Mack truck; when it hits you, you’ll know. Students with the flu in college typically have to miss several weeks of class and can’t make it to the dining halls to get their own meals. Flu season has often peaked in late December, right when Wellesley is administering final exams. The flu season can span from Oct. 30 to March 1.
The immunization is about 85 percent effective, and since last year’s flu season was mild, many students might be tempted to skip the shot. People commonly choose to forgo getting annual vaccinations for the flu because they fear side effects, but Community Outreach Nurse Educator Nancy Baden said that this shouldn’t be a concern. “The most common side effect is a little soreness on your arm where you get the shot. That might last a day or two,” she said. It is rare for people to feel ill after receiving the shot, Baden said.
Both Baden and Britto believe that the fear of side effects should not deter people from getting their immunization. “The flip of it is so much worse, and there’s no way to predict if it’s going to be a mild year or if it’s going to be horrific,” Britto said.
Since the vaccine is not 100 percent effective, students should still take measures to avoid transmitting the flu. Baden advises that students wash their hands routinely for 20 seconds with soap and water, especially before eating. College students live in close quarters and share common spaces, so illnesses can spread quickly. Baden and Britto suggest that students buy thermometers so they can track their symptoms when Health Services is closed.
For students who don’t get vaccinated and do contract the flu, Health Services can evaluate the symptoms and begin treatment with Tamaflu, but only within a 48-hour window. After 48 hours, the virus will have replicated too quickly for Tamaflu to work.
Flu shots will be administered from Monday Sept. 24 to Friday Sept. 28, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. There will also be an evening session on Sept. 24 from 4:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. Students who miss the week of free shots can call Health Services at any time to schedule an appointment for the immunization. Health Services will also administer the vaccine to students who return from abroad in the spring.