Flu fair provides seasonal flu vaccines

Katie Armstrong

The University partnered with Maxim Health Systems and hosted a flu fair in response to Center for Disease Control recommendations that everyone receive the seasonal flu vaccine.

The recommendations come amid concerns that pandemic H1N1 – influenza swine flu – could complicate the upcoming flu season.

The two-day event, held Sept. 23 and 24 in the Pavilion, came amidst warnings that persons between the ages of six months and 24 years old are part of those groups most at risk for contracting the H1N1 virus.

Each year, the Human Resources Department at the University sponsors an annual flu shot program for eligible faculty and staff.

A limited number of flu vaccines are also made available to those students who have medical conditions making protection against the seasonal flu important.

This year, however, given the concerns of a potentially virulent flu season, the University sought to make the seasonal flu shot more accessible to the Villanova community.

“Historically, students [ages 18-24] did not need a seasonal flu vaccine unless they had comorbid illnesses, like asthma or diabetes,” said Mary McGonigle, director of the Student Health Center. “But this year, the CDC wants everybody to get it because it may be a severe flu season. That’s why we brought in Maxim for the flu fair, so that we have the capability of offering everybody the flu vaccine. [The University] just doesn’t have that many resources in our Student Health Center.”

The number of students, faculty and staff who participated in the flu fair was not known at the time of publication, though several hundred students, faculty and staff were expected to attend.

The event featured several medical personnel administering the seasonal flu vaccine for a fee to students, faculty and staff.

Those who received the vaccine for the first time were urged to wait 10 to 15 minutes before leaving the Pavilion so that possible immediate side effects could be treated effectively.

Students waited in long lines to receive the vaccine but considered the wait worth-while.

“In light of current events concerning [the H1N1 virus], I felt that I should get the seasonal flu vaccine,” senior Suktika Mukhopadhyay said. “Because my schedule demands so much of me, I got the vaccine as a preventative measure against contracting influenza, just to make my life easier. I didn’t mind the fee either as I felt that protecting myself against falling ill was very important.”

However, some students decided not to get the seasonal flu vaccine.

“I am generally a healthy person, and felt that I should save a vaccine for those who really need it, like the elderly and kids,” sophomore Elizabeth Marafino said.

In recent weeks, the University has been alerting the Villanova community through e-mails about the risks and complications of the upcoming flu season. Students interviewed felt that the University has done a good job of providing this important information.

“I think the University is doing a great job of spreading awareness about the flu. People do need to be concerned, and the more information put out there, the better,” Marafino said.

“I appreciate that the University reported that people on campus had gotten sick with the H1N1 virus, and that they didn’t suppress this information,” Mukhopadhyoy said. “The University made the information available so the community could be aware of the risk.”

This is the first year the University has hosted a flu fair, and McGonigle said it is probable that it could become an annual event.

“The University’s message [through the “flu fair”] is just echoing the CDC’s message that they want everybody to get the seasonal flu vaccine and also want students, who are priority approved, to get the H1N1 vaccine when that becomes available,” McGonigle said.

A vaccine for pandemic H1N1 influenza will be made available by the federal government later this year and will be administered on a priority tiered agenda.

Those considered priority approved to receive the H1N1 vaccine include pregnant women, caretakers of infants, health care workers and persons ages 6 months to 24 years old. This means that most of Villanova’s community falls within a high-priority tier.

Notice of whether or not the University will become a site providing the H1N1 vaccine to students, faculty and staff is forthcoming from the government. It is not essential for those who get the seasonal flu vaccine to get the H1N1 vaccine when it is made available by the government later this year, but the CDC highly recommends that college students receive both vaccines.