SRU provides hundreds of flu shots at on-campus clinics
Nearly 400 Slippery Rock University students received influenza vaccinations at on-campus clinics, Sept. 17 and Oct. 5.
Oct. 8, 2020
SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. — Hundreds of Slippery Rock University students have already done what a majority of the U.S. adult population doesn't do: get vaccinated for influenza. SRU's Student Health Services administered flu shots to nearly 400 students who chose to attend free vaccination clinics on campus, Sept. 17 and Oct. 5. Additionally, more than 65 SRU employees received flu shots through two on-campus clinics, Sept. 30 and Oct. 6, organized through the Human Resources Office.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, only 48% of American adults received flu vaccinations last year, including 38% of those ages 18-49. While people around the world anxiously await a vaccine for another respiratory virus, the novel coronavirus that resulted in the current global pandemic, the flu vaccine has heightened importance in 2020.
"There is no greater time to get a flu shot than now," said Kris Benkeser, director of student health and wellness. "The best way to manage the flu in 2020 is the same as every year: vaccinate as many people as possible to prevent it from circulating. But it's even more important this year because of the stress that COVID-19 already puts on available health care resources and the compounding effect that both viruses have on the health of individuals."
According to the CDC, it is possible to have the flu, as well as other respiratory illnesses, and COVID-19 at the same time. Health experts are still studying how common this can be.
"Getting a flu vaccine will not protect you from COVID but it will help prevent the diagnostic dilemmas in flu season, as more testing is needed to help confirm a COVID diagnosis," Benkeser said. "As far as clinical presentation, the flu and COVID are virtually indistinguishable. The only symptoms that people with COVID present that people with flu do not sometimes include the change in or loss of taste or smell."
The symptoms of both COVID-19 and the flu include: fever or chills; cough; fatigue; muscle or body aches; headache; sore throat; congestion or runny nose; shortness of breath; vomiting; and diarrhea. Not everyone with the flu will experience fever, and vomiting and diarrhea are more common in children with the flu than adults.
SRU students and employees who were recently vaccinated are getting out ahead of the flu season, which typically starts in the U.S. in October and peaks between December and February. Recent flu seasons in the U.S. have been among the deadliest (estimated 61,000 deaths in 2017-18) and the longest (21 weeks in 2018-19), and last year's cases could have been just as severe as previous years, with 34,157 deaths, if not for the COVID-19 control measures that shortened the season.
Even if members of the SRU community could not attend one of the on-campus vaccination clinics, they are encouraged to get their flu shot from their doctor or at their local pharmacy, as flu shots are covered under most health insurance plans. However, some SRU students said they preferred taking advantage of the convenience and safety of the on-campus vaccination clinics. The Sept. 17 and Oct. 5 clinics were conducted outdoors under open-air tents set up in the Alumni House parking lot along Campus Drive.
"I get a flu shot every year because it's important to protect yourself and others, and especially with COVID, I don't want to get hit with both viruses," said Avery Clukey, a junior health care and administration management major from Mechanicsburg. "I'm getting vaccinated as I early as I can. It's really important (that SRU offers on-campus clinics) because, personally, I was reluctant to go to a pharmacy or other places where they also might be doing COVID testing. At an outdoor event (like the one at SRU), you don't have to risk your health going inside, and it's just a nice central location where you can walk up and be on your way in five minutes."
SHS will host more flu shot clinics on campus as vaccinations are available from its supplier and based on students' needs. Details about future clinics will be communicated to students through all-campus email. Last year, SHS administered 600 doses during the fall semester with orders determined based on previous years' supply and demand as well as the number of students who indicate that they receive their flu shots elsewhere. Another variable is fewer students living on campus this year because of reduced residence hall capacities as 80% of fall semester classes are occurring online.
Any student who is ill or experiencing symptoms associated with COVID-19 or the flu should contact SHS at 724.738.2052. SHS will be able to provide students with guidance and connect them with testing options. Students with suspected or confirmed cases of COVID-19 are expected to self-isolate until cleared by a medical professional. SHS can guide all students through this process regardless of whether they live on or off campus.
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