Influenza vaccinations are being offered to the students of the University of Rhode Island at multiple locations across campus.
According to the Center for Disease Control, an estimated 200,000 people are hospitalized from the flu each year, exemplifying the importance of getting vaccinated to protect yourself and others.
“Everyone should get the flu shot, it’s so easy to do,” Steven Cohen, social epidemiologist and professor at the University of Rhode Island said. “There are very few things you can do like the flu shot where you can pretty much prevent it.”
Colleges are places that vaccinations are particularly important, as dorms make it easier for germs to spread. Communal bathrooms and close proximity to people make it the perfect breeding ground for viruses like the flu. Yet in a survey of 20 URI students, not one had gotten the flu shot.
“I just have not gotten around to it,” one student said. “I often don’t get the flu so I don’t get the shot. I haven’t gotten the flu shot since like freshman year of high school and I haven’t gotten sick so I don’t need it.”
Time reports that the United States saw one of the worst flu seasons last winter with a record of 80,000 deaths, including 172 children. “Approximately 80 percent of these deaths occurred in children who had not received a flu vaccination this season,” said the CDC.
Because different strains of flu circulate each year, the effectiveness of the vaccine may be lower than other years. Such was the case last season as the flu vaccine was only protective against 30 percent of viruses, Time reported.
However, even if the efficacy rate of the vaccine is small, the CDC strongly encourages people still get vaccinated. “You never know if you are the 30 percent that the vaccine protects,” Nasser Zawia, pharmacy professor said. “There is no harm in getting it, and you are more protected if you do.”
Getting the flu shot is also beneficial in preventing the flu from spreading to the community. Herd immunity occurs when a high proportion of individuals are immune or protected from a disease, so the chance of that disease spreading is low within the population. It ensures that everyone, including vulnerable populations such as children and the elderly, are protected from the flu.
The journal “Vaccine” notes that “At least 70 percent of people need to get an annual flu shot to achieve herd immunity in a community.”
Herd immunity also protects individuals who may not be able to get vaccinated due to medical reasons.
Another URI student said that he has not gotten the flu shot yet because it is not flu season. Yet Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the National Institute of Health says, “We should get vaccinated now. The best time is certainly before Oct. 31. That way we can better protect the population.”
In addition to getting the flu shot, you can boost your immune system by eating healthy, exercising and getting plenty of sleep. People can also avoid contagion by frequently washing hands and coughing into their elbow.