Students need to get their flu shots
Flu season is coming up, and chances are you haven’t gotten your flu shot.
The Centers for Disease Control reported that in the 2017-18 season, around 960,000 people were hospitalized and an estimated 79,000 people died from flu complications, the highest numbers in 10 years. Peak flu season is between December and February, but the CDC recommends getting vaccinated by the end of October. In 2017, however, the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases reported that out of the 1,005 college students sampled, only 46 percent of them were getting their annual flu shot.
This number is disheartening, as students would not have to deal with the possible consequences of getting the flu if they simply received the vaccination.
An online survey examined student attitudes toward vaccinations. It showed that one of the biggest barriers keeping students from getting their flu shot is the misconception and fear around the shots.
Among the surveyed students who said they don’t get a seasonal flu shot, 36 percent said they didn’t feel they needed it, 31 percent cited a fear of needles and 59 percent said they believed the vaccine causes the flu.
This last misconception is common. Many people think the flu shot makes them sick.
“I don’t like getting the flu shot because every time I get it, I get super sick with a severe cold where I’m otherwise healthy. I stopped getting it three years ago, and I haven’t gotten sick since,” said public relations junior Miriam Lopez.
The sickness that many people feel following their vaccination is a combination of side effects including headache, fever, nausea and muscle aches. But the virus in flu vaccines is either an inactivated virus or a single gene from the virus instead of a full one.
The flu is more severe than most common colds we get. The symptoms can include a fever, fatigue, muscle aches, sore throat, chills and sweats. These symptoms can be much more debilitating than an average sickness.
With regular colds, some people may feel well enough to still go to work or school. The side effects of the flu could confine you to your bed for anywhere from a few days to over a week. For college students, missing an entire week of class could have a serious impact on their grades.
Students enrolled in the student health insurance plan can get it for no cost, but many students are not a part of this plan and therefore may be discouraged from getting the shot.
Students have opportunities every year to get vaccinated on campus. The UH Health Center held a flu shot clinic Oct. 28 in partnership with H-E-B Pharmacy, where commercial insurance or out-of-pocket payment was accepted. The center also held an open house Oct. 11 where it offered free flu shots. Students should be on the lookout for and take advantage of these events in the future.
The flu shot is also available at pharmacies like CVS and Walgreens and is free with most medical insurance.
The vaccination may be a burden to deal with. It might give you side effects, and you do have to go out of your way to get it. But getting the flu would be arguably worse than dealing with the hassle of getting the shot.
If you haven’t gotten your flu shot this year, I strongly encourage you to get one and protect yourself and others for the upcoming flu season.
Opinion writer Rachel Reynolds is a liberal studies junior and can be reached at [email protected]