More than 2,100 students, faculty and staff members – including University President Steven Knapp – turned out to receive a seasonal influenza vaccine at the first flu shot clinic of the season last week.
The four-hour-long clinic was the first of five free seasonal flu shot clinics that the University will offer this year, and there were 300 more people at this clinic than there were at all of last year’s clinics combined. In the past, students without the University’s health insurance plan paid $20 for an influenza vaccine.
“We were expecting less to turnout,” University spokeswoman Michelle Sherrard said in an e-mail. “In previous years the total flu vaccines given all through the season was 1,800.”
Lines of GW community members waiting for their shot snaked around the third floor of the Marvin Center, but students interviewed said the lines moved quickly.
Since the beginning of the school year, the Student Health Service has diagnosed 437 students with an “influenza-like illness” Sherrard said. She also added that there could be more students who went to other health providers to be diagnosed, or simply have the flu and did not report their symptoms.
“The University is offering free vaccinations to encourage as many people as possible to get the seasonal flu shot,” Sherrard said. “We are very pleased with the campus participation in the program.”
Students waiting in line at the flu shot clinic said they showed up to get their vaccine in an attempt to avoid the illness spreading around the University.
“A lot of people are getting sick,” sophomore Andrew Bowles said as he waited in line for his shot. “I’m trying to avoid that.”
Bowles said he appreciated the University’s decision to make the flu vaccines free, adding that part of the reason he showed up to get the shot was because it would not cost him anything.
Senior Maggie Gomez-Madonia said she too showed up to get vaccinated to avoid the spreading illness.
“The flu seems to be a popular thing,” Gomez-Madonia said. “Things go around campus so quickly that I’d rather avoid getting it.”
Because this vaccine doesn’t protect against the H1N1 strand of the virus – commonly known as the swine flu – the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends getting the H1N1 flu shot in addition to the seasonal flu shot, Sherrard said.
While the H1N1 vaccine is not yet available, Isabel Goldenberg, director of SHS, said she is monitoring news about the vaccine and is attempting to make sure the University will secure it when it is released.
Students at the clinic, however, had mixed opinions about whether or not to get the H1N1 vaccine when it becomes available.
Sophomore Sarah Siegel said she is not planning to get the swine flu shot because she has heard that it’s just a “watered-down” version of the seasonal shot.
But Aaron Cohen said he intends on getting the vaccine as soon as it becomes available.
“I figured if I get the flu shot now, then that’ll get one off the bat and then I won’t have a bad immune system,” Cohen said.
Four more free flu shot clinics will be held on Sept. 29, Oct. 1, Oct. 7 and Oct. 8, Sherrard said, adding that students should check the campus advisories Web site for the latest information about the flu.