With Flu Season just around the corner, University Health Services at Boise State is preparing their annual campaign to fight the spread of influenza on campus and in the greater community.
A major obstacle to this campaign may be student apathy towards getting the flu vaccine.
“It’s really just a matter of coming by Health Services. If you’re on your way from one place to another and you think about it, then you can get vaccinated. There’s no appointment necessary,” said Dr. Vincent Serio, the Director of Medical Services for University Health Services at Boise State.
Boise State Health Services’ flu-fighting campaign is expanding this year to include vaccine opportunities within certain residence halls in order to make the vaccine accessible to as many students as possible. The campaign will onset in early October, when vaccines will first be made available to students.
Encouraging students to get vaccinated, Serio explained, helps prevent flu related deaths on a wider scale than a college campus. While young and healthy adults are considered a low risk subset of the population, vaccinating students helps protect high-risk subsets of the population from developing flu-related health complications by preventing the spread of the influenza virus.
According to the Center for Disease Control, the most likely subgroups of the population to develop flu-related health complications include children younger than five years old, adults over 65, pregnant women and people with preexisting medical conditions such as respiratory conditions and weakened immune systems attributed to HIV, AIDS, or cancer.
“The public health model is this: we know not everyone wants to get vaccinated or will, but when you do come in and get vaccinated, yes you’re protecting yourself, but you’re also contributing to what we call herd immunity,” Serio said. “You’re decreasing the risk for the young, healthy appearing student that is sitting next to you with cystic fibrosis that you don’t know about, or asthma, or diabetes, or who is pregnant – members of the high risk groups for influenza—and you’re preventing them from getting sick too.”
Common misconceptions about the flu and the vaccine may affect students’ decision to get vaccinated. Some students complain about getting the flu from the vaccine.
“I tell them, prove it,” Serio said. “You cannot get the flu from the flu shot. Some people get soreness at the injection site, and some people will get more generally achy and feel flu-like symptoms. But you cannot get the respiratory symptoms.”
According to the Center for Disease Control, the vaccine itself cannot cause the flu because the viruses contained in the shot are inactivated and therefore cannot cause infection.
Serio stated that while it is possible to contract flu-like symptoms from other common viruses after getting vaccinated, the risk of developing seasonal influenza after getting the flu shot is extremely minimal and exists for only 10-20% of the population.
Day to day precautionary measures can help to prevent the flu, such as frequent hand washing, healthy eating, and getting enough sleep. However, the only thing that has ever been proven to prevent the flu is the vaccine itself.
“I’ve only gotten the flu a couple of times. I just figure if I wash my hands and stuff then I’ll be fine,” said Brooke Hopkins, a freshman with an undecided major.
Health care professionals may face an uphill battle in convincing students that influenza is a serious enough problem that it is worth taking time out of their day to get vaccinated.
“I don’t love shots enough and I don’t feel there’s a need for one enough to take the 15 minutes to go to Walgreens or wherever to get vaccinated,” said Alex Cole, a sophomore at Boise State studying computer science. “It’s probably a matter of laziness and inconvenience.”