SHS cuts back on flu shots

Student Health Services will have only 20 to 25 flu shots to offer to students this year after a worldwide shortage put the vaccine in high demand.

SHS Director Isabel Goldenberg said her department planned to make 2,500 shots available this year. At least 500 students paid $15 apiece to receive flu shots last year.

Hundreds of flu clinics were cancelled across the nation after 48 million doses of the vaccine – half of the United States’ supply – were suspected of contamination last week, according to The Washington Post. Scores of colleges, including the University of Maryland and Yale University, have also cancelled clinics.

Goldenberg said she is worried about the shortage because the flu spreads particularly fast among college students, who live in close quarters.

“Flu prevention is one of the major public health activities we do on campus each year,” Goldenberg said.

The health services’ shots will be administered to those students with “severe medical problems,” Goldenberg said. A list of the most ill students, who will be offered the vaccinations first, is being compiled. The SHS Web site (gwired.gwu.edu/shs) provides a list of ailments that may make students qualified to receive the shot.

SHS officials have requested other forms of flu prevention, such as the nasal spray MedImmune, which should be made available in the next few months. The nasal vaccine can only be given to people who are “relatively healthy” and have no other existing medical problems.

Goldenberg said she is concerned about the shortage of vaccinations because influenza is detected on campus each year.

“Every year there is an outbreak,” Goldenberg said. “I’m concerned about what will happen this year.”

Goldenberg encouraged healthy living habits for flu prevention such as avoiding close contact with sick people and abstaining from alcohol consumption, which can weaken the immune system.

Goldenberg said she is happy to see that students and parents are aware that the shortage is an international problem and that not much can be done by GW to correct it.

She said, “It’s nice to see parents and students are so understanding.”

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