Flu shot season has arrived

The USD Student Health Center provides free flu shots for students. Lilyana Espinoza/The USD Vista

Student Health Center provides free vaccinations for students to protect them from the flu


Tyler Arden | Contributor | The USD Vista

Flu season is right around the corner, and this year the University of San Diego Student Health Center (SHC) is reminding students that they aren’t invincible to the infectious disease by encouraging students to get vaccinated.

Associated Students continued their support of the health center’s initiative this year, providing a grant of $3,000 to help provide free vaccines to students. The sponsorship offset the cost for 150 students to receive the vaccine on campus.

But the initiative runs much larger than the grant provided by AS. Health Center Director Pamela Sikes said the SHC has ordered 900 vaccines offer to students to date. With those vaccinations, over 773 students were vaccinated by the health center.

Using funds allocated in their budget, the SHC purchased the entire supply of vaccines which run $20 per dose. A portion of that cost is covered by the AS grant and student health insurance.  Of those vaccinated, 200 students carried the Student Health Insurance Plan, which was billed for the full cost of each vaccine.

“The Student Health Center has paid for the rest,” Sikes said. “Currently that’s over 400 vaccines for around $8,000.”

As the health center approaches the end of their supply, Sikes said they will begin to evaluate whether they need to order more to meet demand. If the SHC orders more, students may have to begin paying for part of the cost.

“If we need to order more, we will need to evaluate if we will need to charge for these,” Sikes said. “I hope we do need to order more though, because that means more students will be vaccinated.”

Sikes recommended that students receive a vaccination now if they have not yet done so, as this year is forecasted to be a more active flu season.

“It takes about two weeks to be maximally protected, so get the vaccine now, before you may be exposed and before Thanksgiving travels,” Sikes said. “This year we’re anticipating high flu activity and the flu vaccine is the best available way to protect against influenza.”

The American College Health Association set a target goal for campuses to see 50 percent of their students vaccinated annually for influenza by 2020. The Office of Disease Prevention sets a higher goal for the United States population at 70 percent. Nationally, rates among students range from 8 to 39 percent according to a 2016 National Foundation of Infectious Diseases report.

Even with the health center offering free vaccines and hosting special clinics for students in partnership with the Hahn School of Nursing, the University of San Diego falls well short of these goals. Approximately 14 percent of students elected to receive the vaccine this flu season.

Sophomore Tomy Vettukallel is one of the students who received a flu vaccine at one of the clinics. He said that the SHC made the process convenient for students to stay healthy this flu season.

“I got my flu shot when they had the flu clinic,”  Vettukallel said. “It was super easy. I was already thinking about how I needed to get one when one of the nurses told me that I needed a flu shot as I was walking by.”

The large population of students not getting vaccinated carries risks and consequences, especially for higher-risk students living in residence halls on campus. An American College Health Association survey conducted during the fall of 2016, found that 12 percent of college students claimed to receive a lower grade on an exam because they became ill with the flu.

Yet even while many students know the risk that comes with going unvaccinated against the flu, there is a long list of excuses. Sophomore Gideon Sawyer said that while getting the flu shot was something on his radar, other things were a higher priority.

“I’m simply too busy,” Sawyer said. “Maybe I should get one, but the fact is it’s on the bottom of my list after obligations with school, work, friends, and free time.”

At the same time, students may not realize the full health impact that the flu can have. Where the vaccine can prevent or reduce the time spent ill, those benefits are only realized when students actually get vaccinated. Sawyer expressed that while he is concerned about getting ill, the flu doesn’t resonate as a major concern to him.

“The fact is I’m always worried about getting sick just living in such a close environment to everyone,” Sawyer said. “I also don’t think I realize the severity of the flu though. I think of it as something I can get over in a couple of days with medicine.”

As a student who did get vaccinated, Vettukallel said he got the vaccine to stay healthy, especially since flu season comes during what is typically the busiest time of the semester.

“The last thing that you want to do is get sick during finals,” Vettukallel said. “When it’s so easy to help prevent that from happening, getting a flu shot makes sense.”

There is still the opportunity for students to get vaccinated for free. Sikes said students can make an appointment online through the SHC website, but that vaccines are also offered on a walk-in basis during their normal operating hours.