Flu Shot Underestimated on Campus: Students Wear Out Resources of Coop Clinic

Katherine DeVries

It’s a well-known fact that college campuses are breeding grounds for sickness. Not only are there the everyday worries of germs on the door handle, but college students also get to deal with packed, sweltering frat basements whose aroma and physical set-up seem representative of infection on their own. Thus, protecting against things like the flu is something that Colgate takes very seriously.

Every year, several strains of the flu circulate among the population. Each of these strains is either a continuation of, or mutation on a previous generation. Despite this variety, however, there are usually only a few strains that are most prominent.

Thus, the scientists behind the manufacturing of the flu vaccine must attempt to estimate, each season, which strains of the virus are likely to be most prevalent. Usually, approximately three strains are identified, and it is these strains which are protected against by that season’s vaccine. Because the flu season runs from November through early March, vaccines are usually administered between early September and mid-November.

To make the process easier, as well as to promote health education, Director of Health Services and Adjunct Professor of the Health Sciences Dr. Merrill Miller and the rest of Health Services staff decided to locate these clinics in the O’Connor Campus Center (Coop), bring in extra staff and pair the vaccination clinic with an educationally focused Coop information table.

During the last two vaccination clinics, Health Services has administered approximately 900 flu shots. These shots are available at a discounted price ($15 per shot which can be paid in cash, check or ‘Gate card) and are available to students, faculty and Colgate retirees.

At last week’s clinic, the turnout was so high that a so-called “shortage” of the vaccine occurred. However, the scarcity was only temporary, as Health Services assured the waiting students that there were more vaccines available at the Heath Center and that a new shipment would be arriving within the next few weeks.

For those who were unable to receive their vaccine at last week’s clinic, appointments are available at Heath Services, where the vaccine can be administered on an individual basis, or at the next Coop clinic, which will be held in the same location on Tuesday, November 13 from 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.

While 900 vaccinations, as well as the expected 300 more to come may seem like an excellent turnout, Health Services is continuing to encourage more students to participate in the clinics.

Out of the 900 vaccinated, only about 500 of those were Colgate students, a fact which may be somewhat disconcerting, as it is the living arrangements students face (being packed together in dorms, apartments, classrooms and dining halls throughout the day) that are most conducive to the spreading of viruses.

One of the main reasons many people refuse the vaccine is their fear that receiving the shot will actually cause them to contract the virus. However, according to Miller, the flu shot used in Colgate’s vaccination clinics contains only dead virus particles, which are capable of stimulating the body’s production of antibodies, but not of actually allowing live virus particles to grow. Thus, because the vaccine not only prevents one from getting the flu, but prevents them from spreading it as well, it could be argued that being vaccinated represents something of a community responsibility.