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Health Services gives free flu shots

Sara Felsenstein | Wednesday, September 23, 2009

University Health Services will offer 6,000 free influenza vaccinations to Notre Dame students, faculty and staff, exceeding last year’s supply by 1,000, Director of University Health Services Ann Kleva said.

Vaccines were distributed yesterday, and will be available today from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and tomorrow from 1 p.m. to 8 p.m. at Stepan Center. The shots are being given on a first come, first serve basis.

Even with the increased supply, University Health Services are unsure if there are enough vaccines to meet this year’s demand, Kleva said.

“It’s hard to say. We certainly hope so and we did purchase additional doses. We will try to get them to everyone, but we cannot promise that,” Kleva said. “We’re trying to be convenient for the students, so they don’t have to go off campus.”

If a student is unable to obtain a free vaccination this week, there are plenty of additional vaccines available in the South Bend community that covered by most insurance companies, Kleva said.

Kleva said the money for the students’ vaccines comes from the University Health Services budget, while Human Resources provides the funds for the faculty. Because the vaccines are expensive, Health Services carefully monitors the number of vaccines ordered.

“Say we wanted to purchase 10,000 vaccines and in the past only about 2,000 students came out to get them, if [there were extras], then we would have to absorb the cost,” she said.

Last year Health Services distributed the free vaccines a few weeks later, in the second week of October.

“We’re following the CDC guidelines, and we ordered these [vaccines] the spring before. Since we ordered early, they were delivered early,” Kleva said.

The coughs, aches and fevers of the flu may seem months away, but Kleva said the flu season has already begun on campus.

“It is possible for Notre Dame to have the seasonal flu early, because we have students and visitors from all over the world coming from places that already have the flu season.”

Notre Dame’s communal atmosphere with dorms, tight classrooms and sharing of computers, books and desks also contributes to the early onset of flu season and the spread of the virus. Additionally, Kleva said, it can take 24 hours before the first flu symptoms appear, so often students do not realize when they are ill and continue their routines.

Sophomore Lauren Ruhling received the shot yesterday.

“I had never gotten a flu shot until last year. I figure living in the close confinements of a dorm would increase my chances of catching the flu, so the shot would be a good idea,” she said. “Waiting in line versus misses classes, being sick and missing doing stuff with your friends? You should get the shot – it’s free.”

Kleva said the vaccine distribution drastically decreases the number of flu cases seen on campus.

“The seasonal flu vaccine remains effective throughout the flu season,” she said. “Really immunity peaks in the third to fourth month. You’ll have immunity through the end of March and April.”

Students receiving the vaccination should wear short sleeves, and any student running a fever may not receive the vaccine, Kleva said.

Students should come as early as possible, she also advised, as there will be limited amounts of the vaccine allocated for each day, and when that amount runs out, no more will be offered.

Any leftover vaccines at the end of the three days will be available at the University Health Center.