Most university health centers offer the flu vaccine, either for free or a small fee.
An average of 42% of Americans receive the flu vaccine each year, including Dr. Howard Koh. The assistant secretary for health at the Department of Heath and Human Services received his yearly flu shot during a news conference Thursday.
“People cannot become complacent this year,” Koh said during his announcement urging Americans to get vaccinated.
Last year, one-third of teens received the flu vaccine, compared to 45% of high-risk young- and middle-aged adults.
“I have asthma and have my whole life, so I have always been in one of the risk categories that they highly recommend you get the shot for, so [getting vaccinated] has always just been a second nature for me,” said Emily Featherston, a senior at Fordham University.
Though the flu vaccine is recommended for anyone over six months of age, not all college students will be rushing their university health centers to obtain one of the 85 million doses of the vaccine already distributed.
In a study published in an upcoming research journal, Janet Yang, Ph.D., assistant professor of communication at the University of Buffalo, showed that only about 10% of college students received the vaccine during the swine-flu pandemic.
“I got [the flu vaccine] my sophomore year [during the swine flu outbreak] and it wasn’t even worth it because I was sick for days from the vaccine,” said Carolyn Wegemann, 22, of West Chester, Pa.
Yang hypothesized that some students felt “too capable” to receive the vaccine. Though she worked with a small sample of students at Buffalo, her findings are reflected in the feelings of other undergraduates.
“I just feel like we’re the group that needs the shot the least,” said Morgan Nelson, a student at New York University. “Sure, we may be more prone to the virus living in dorms but we are the demo that’s supposed to recover the fastest as well.”
“I never got the flu shot,” said Natasha Ramos, a commuter student, citing less exposure to germ-ridden environments in college dorms.
Studies show that college students who do receive the vaccine are less at-risk of contracting an influenza illness, as well as missing classes or fall behind their course load.
“I feel like if I have the option, it’s a good thing to do,” Victoria Rau, 21, said. “Maybe it will stop me from getting the flu, maybe it won’t, but there’s no harm in taking the precaution.”
Other students cite concerns over the benefits of vaccines as reasons not to get inoculated against the flu.
“Never had the flu shot, never had the flu,” said Perla Alvarez, a sophomore at NYU. “It’s unnecessary amounts of toxins going into your body, and since childhood we get these vaccines and the toxins build up.”
“I think if you take care of yourself in general, and especially when you start to feel bad, there’s no reason to get it,” Nelson said.
Most university health centers offer the flu vaccine, either for free or a small fee. Students are eligible for the traditional shot vaccine, as well as a nasal mist and new intradermal shot (for those over 18), which is meant to reduce pain from the shot.
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