Autumn is here so it’s time to talk about flu shots. College students live crammed into small spaces with hundreds of other college students, so the spread of illnesses like the flu, especially in fall and winter months, happens quickly. Fortunately for us, lowering our chances of getting sick takes less than a minute on the way out of the dining hall or between classes. For everyone able (some people do have health problems that conflict), get a flu shot. Flu shots are free on campus—a momentary glance at the Health and Counseling Center website will provide the times and locations of the free flu clinic that happens during the month of October. These include Oct. 12 on Driscoll green, Oct. 17 at Sturm Law, Oct. 23 at Halls and Oct. 26 at Nelson. Even if you do not memorize this, chances are that you will walk by a flu shot station at some point in your week. Again, do us all a favor and get one.
For the overall population, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reports a decrease of 40 to 60 percent in risk for flu with a vaccination. Of course, those developing vaccinations have to predict with strain of the flu virus will be most prevalent in a given year, and the standard flu vaccine works better in some years than in others. However, if you have no health risks that complicate your receiving a flu shot, getting vaccinated will very likely reduce your chances of becoming ill or seriously ill. This also means that you will not spread the virus to anyone else. The more people vaccinated, the fewer people to whom flu will be able to spread.
This is simple enough, but as much as we preen over our high levels of education, the foolish feeling of invincibility from our teenage years isn’t through with us yet. A report from the National Foundation of Infectious Diseases shows that vaccination rates on college campuses are very low, some as low as eight percent and usually no higher than 40 percent. There are many reasons for this, perhaps slightly different for each student. This unwise notion of being an always-healthy young person is one, and personal responsibility and family values can also be factors. With rates this low, however, people will be falling ill left and right, and no student wants to get sick. Missing class on the quarter system takes its dooming toll, others will also get sick, and let’s not forget that having the flu is miserable. The good news is, the greater the proportion of immunized students, the less we will have to deal with this.
One of the best things a school can do to increase rates is to provide free vaccinations, and ta-da, we already have that. Although flu vaccines are not included in the list of required immunizations to attend DU, they are encouraged by being made readily available. It is a good idea to check in with your roommate that you have both been vaccinated since living quarters are tight and two flu-stricken people in one 140 square-foot room is disgusting. DU makes getting a flu shot as easy as possible, short of sneaking up and injecting you.
Low vaccination rates on college campuses is an easy trend to reverse. Consider this to be a step on the way to independence and personal responsibility, one that is not at all difficult to take. This is a good opportunity to think of yourself and your own health, as well as the health of those around you, all of whom will benefit from a greater number of vaccinated peers. Surely more than half of students are willing and able to get a flu shot, and if you are, it is simply a matter of sticking your arm out and doing it.