UHS administers flu vaccines to campus community
Serena Zacharias | Monday, September 23, 2019
In preparation for flu season, University Health Services (UHS) hosted their annual Flu Blitz on Tuesday through Thursday providing free influenza vaccines to prevent campus community members from falling sick in the midst of the fall semester.
Director of UHS Sharon McMullen said this year the University administered approximately 6,450 flu vaccines to students, retirees, staff and dependents, over the course of three days in the Stepan Center.
The public health initiative is a joint effort between UHS and the Division of Human Resources to protect people from contracting the flu and lessening its symptoms if infected.
“Avoiding influenza is important, especially on a college campus, where illnesses can spread easily due to our close proximity to each other, and because getting sick with the flu can interrupt a student’s academic progress,” McMullen said.
While the CDC recommends getting the flu vaccine every year to reduce the risk of flu complications that can lead to hospitalization or even death, they also urge everyday preventative actions to slow the spread of germs that cause respiratory illnesses like the flu. When most people in a community are vaccinated, McMullen said it becomes more difficult for the flu to spread in general, so flu shots help more than just the individual receiving the vaccine.
“The annual Flu Blitz is yet another opportunity to build community in true Notre Dame fashion,” McMullen said.
Having a large percentage of people in a community vaccinated also enables herd immunity, which helps protect immune-compromised individuals who cannot receive vaccinations.
In order to be most effective, UHS times the Flu Blitz specifically, so students, staff and faculty are protected throughout the entirety of flu season. UHS Health IT Specialist, Neal Connolly, who was the Flu Blitz Manager this year, said the influenza vaccine is typically effective for about six to eight months after vaccination.
“So anyone who was vaccinated at our event should be covered until roughly April — which is typically the end of the flu season,” Connolly said.
As UHS director, McMullen said she served as executive sponsor of Notre Dame’s annual Flu Blitz while also helping out giving vaccines.
“I even had the chance to go back to my roots as a registered nurse and to administer vaccines, including to vice president of student affairs, Erin Hoffmann Harding,” McMullen said.
UHS not only holds the Flu Blitz for easy access to the flu vaccine to community members, but McMullen said they also consider the event an annual drill for emergency preparedness.
“If our campus ever experiences a need for large-scale administration of medication, for example in a meningococcal meningitis outbreak, we’ll be ready, thanks to the structure of our Flu Blitz,” McMullen said. “Some of the emergency management elements we intentionally include are clear chain of command, separate ingress and egress, point-of-care documentation, efficient throughput, epi ‘hotwash’ debriefing session and collaboration with campus and local partners.”
In addition, every year UHS rotates the leadership positions of the Flu Blitz among staff members to build depth of emergency management experience and to offer professional development, McMullen said.
For students, the Flu Blitz may also serve as a learning experience.
“We use this opportunity to engage the academy,” McMullen said. “Last year, Dr. Josh Shrout got his flu vaccine at the 2018 Flu Blitz and wondered if it could provide a learning opportunity for students in his Water, Disease and Global Health class. That thought turned into a problem set for this year’s class using deidentified UHS vaccine data.”