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ND, SMC offer flu shots

Aaron Steiner | Tuesday, October 31, 2006

As winter approaches, so does the onset of flu season – something Notre Dame Health Services and Saint Mary’s Health and Wellness Services are prepared to combat this year.

The College and University will distribute vaccinations – Saint Mary’s this week, Notre Dame next week – in hopes of protecting students from both common flu and potential pandemics.

“Pandemics go in cycles,” Assistant Director of Notre Dame Health Services Patricia Brubaker said. “[Health officials] know that the cycle is due.”

Keeping this threat in mind, Saint Mary’s President Carol Ann Mooney said in her Aug. 16 College Forum address she has prepared for the “heightened concerned about the possibility of an avian flu pandemic” through the creation of a Pandemic Task Force.

Committee chairperson and Executive Assistant to the President Susan Dampeer said the committee was created this summer under guidelines set by the American College Health Association (ACHA) to develop a plan that would direct the College’s response to a pandemic or similar health crisis.

Brubaker said Notre Dame developed a similar plan shortly after Sept. 11, and both schools developed their plans under recommendation of federal agencies and groups like the ACHA.

Representatives from all College departments – from Campus Ministry to Building Services to Information Technology – comprise the task force, with the particular goal of the creation of planned response to a health crisis, Dampeer said.

Notre Dame’s “elaborate and detailed plans,” Brubaker said, include everything from dealing with a shortage of vaccinations to possibilities of quarantine. The plans also determine “which dorms we would use for quarantine, and how they would get food [and] linens, among other things,” she said.

Representatives from both schools said the plans are a necessary part of preparation for the possibility of a pandemic.

“We don’t want to be caught in a surprise,” Director of Saint Mary’s Health and Wellness Services Cathy DeCleene said.

And while there is little chance of the flu becoming a pandemic this season, students need to be prepared for the possibility, Brubaker said.

“The avian flu is not a possibility yet for human-to-human transfer,” she said, but noted that “it’s just as important this year as any other” for students to get vaccinated.

DeCleene said there is a lower possibility this year for a shortage of vaccinations, and although it is important for students to get a flu shot, there is “no panic to get the vaccine.”

Vaccination is especially important for high-risk people, including “any nursing student, or people with ongoing, chronic illnesses, especially asthma,” DeCleene said.

“Any person living in a household with a person who is immuno-compromised, should also be vaccinated,” Brubaker said.

The College began to offer the flu shot for $15 on Oct. 27 and will continue to immunize students from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. in the Health and Wellness Center through Nov. 3.

Approximately 70 Saint Mary’s students received vaccinations on Oct. 27, DeCleene said, and she expects about 125 to 150 students to be vaccinated by Nov. 3. After Friday, the remaining vaccinations of the 250 shots that were ordered will be distributed to Saint Mary’s staff.

Brubaker said Notre Dame Health Services ordered 5,000 vaccinations and expects to use all of these vaccinations during the three-day distribution on Nov. 7, 8 and 9 at University Health Services to both students and staff. The time of vaccine distribution has yet to be determined, she said.

Vaccinations will first be offered to those in high-risk health situations, Brubaker said, followed by all eligible people. All vaccinations are free to Notre Dame students, staff, faculty, retirees and spouses of retirees.

While both schools urge the importance of getting vaccinated, the immunization does not guarantee prevention.

“The flu vaccination only protects from three strains of influenza and is only about 71 percent effective in preventing those strains,” Brubaker said.