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Thousands receive free flu vaccine

Justin Tardiff | Thursday, October 6, 2005

University Health Services will offer free flu vaccines for the third consecutive day at the Joyce Center today in anticipation of the oncoming flu season.

The shots were offered Tuesday and Wednesday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. in the Joyce Center and will be offered at the same times today.

Pat Brubaker, assistant director of University Health Services and the person in charge of organizing the event, said roughly 700 people received the vaccine Tuesday and another 1,700 people received shots Wednesday. Roughly 1,700 of the original 5,000 shots remain.

Last year, the company contracted to supply the University released vaccines only in increments. At the time of distribution in the fall, there were not enough shots to meet demand, and Health Services ran out quickly.

This year, the University went with a new company, GlaxoSmithKline, and all of the doses were delivered last week, Brubaker said.

Funding for the shots comes partly from the Health Services budget and partly from Human Resources, Brubaker said. The Health Services budget money pays for shots for students and also covers supplies needed to administer the shots. The Human Resources money goes toward shots for staff, faculty and retirees.

“We pretty much split the cost” Brubaker said.

Though the University has to put up the money for the vaccines, Brubaker said keeping students healthy is worth the cost. One shot could potentially save an individual two weeks of misery during flu season, she added.

“[Our] main purpose is to keep students well so they can be successful at school,” Brubaker said.

Freshman Meghan Keefe received a flu shot at the Joyce Center Tuesday.

“I have a weakened immune system, and I don’t want to get sick,” Keefe said.

However, not everyone has decided the shots are necessary. First year Christina Sartorio said she will not get a flu shot.

“I’ve never gotten one before, and I’ve had a lot of opportunities to get one because my mom is a nurse. It’s never occurred to me to get one,” she said.

This year, people with a higher risk of developing the flu were allowed to receive shots on Tuesday, and everyone else was allowed to get them Wednesday and today.

Last year, only “high-risk” patients were allowed to receive shots because of the shortage, said Brubaker, but this year everyone is allowed to go.

Another change from last year is the timing of the shots.

“This is the earliest we’ve ever given the flu shot,” said Brubaker.

She explained that “it takes ten days to build immunity” from the shot and that Health Services wanted to give the shots out “before fall break so that students don’t catch the flu and bring it back to campus with them.”

Brubaker ordered the vaccines in March in preparation for the distribution at the Joyce this week.

“We have to predict how many we’re going to need based on the usage from the year before and based on the flu season,” Brubaker said.

Once the vaccines arrive, they are stored by Food Services in their freezers. Building Services also helped with the effort by getting the JACC ready for the shots to be given there.

The flu vaccine is given out by Health Services ever year because the strains of flu that are the most prevalent in the U.S. change every year as well.

Brubaker explained that the vaccine only protects against “the top three strains of the flu out of a total of 100 strains” and that the “recipe” for the vaccine is based on “the flu in the U.S.”

If any doses are left over after today, they will be available in the Health Center, Brubaker said.