Cal Poly preps to fight flu

“I would love for us to get to the point where we get 80 percent of the student population vaccinated every year,” head of medical services Dr. David Harris said, “and we could never have a shortage because we would know how much vaccine to order, rather than guessing.”

Jessica Burger
jburger@mustangdaily.net

With flu shot shortages surfacing all over the country, Cal Poly is doing its best to get students vaccinated after running out last Monday. Students may get flu shots from the Health Center for $9, for protection against this year’s epidemic, which has been called the worst in the past decade by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Though it has been available since September, the number of students coming in for flu shots has increased vastly since the start of the winter quarter, going from about one to two, to 60 to 80 vaccinations per day, according to head of medical services Dr. David Harris. This has led to several instances of the Health Center running out of vaccinations; Harris said the center has already gone through about two-thirds of the 200 vaccinations it received on Tuesday, but will be receiving 500 more this Thursday.

“We are way behind where we want to be,” Harris said. “I would love for us to get to the point where we get 80 percent of the student population vaccinated every year, and we would never have a shortage because we would know how much vaccine to order, rather than guessing.”

But that may not be possible on a local, or even national level. The entire nation may be facing a shortage. Of the 135 million doses produced for this year, approximately 128 million have already been distributed, according to the CDC website.

“If we have a big bad flu season, we might absolutely run out,” Harris said. ”They are already making next year’s vaccine.”

This year’s vaccine is approximately 62 percent effective and protects against three strands of the flu, and while people may still be able to contract the flu after being vaccinated, they will experience a weaker version, Harris said.

Harris said people with pre-existing conditions, such as asthma, diabetes or even smokers, should absolutely get the flu shot every year.

While many students opt out of the flu vaccination (Harris said approximately 80 percent of student health questionnaires report students not receiving a flu shot within the past 12 months), he suggests them for everyone.

“Our clean, hygienic lifestyle and good public health measures have kept people healthy, but people are coming here from all over the world bringing all sorts of things,” Harris said. “No one doubts the sanity of putting your seatbelt on — this is in the same category.”

Biological sciences senior Keanna Hill said she will get the shot from the Health Center.

“I plan on getting the shot, especially since I just found out you can just walk-in,” Hill said. “It’s only $9 and I don’t have health insurance.”

For students who cannot get the flu shot, whether because of availability or choice, there are some options available for protection from the virus.

Karen Bero, a nurse at the Health Center, said students should be washing their hands regularly, drinking a lot of fluids, getting enough sleep and staying away from other students who are sneezing or coughing.

“The virus can live for seven to eight hours on any surface, so if I sneeze and then touch a doorknob, and then you touch that door knob eight hours later, you could get it,” she said.

Vaccinations are available at the Health Center Monday through Friday, from 8 to 11 a.m. and 2:30 to 4:30 p.m.

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