The University of Alabama campaign to make the University a no flu zone continues in October. Flu season typically begins in October, and nurses from University Medical Center and the Student Health Center, which are both operated by the College of Community Health Sciences, are working to make it as easy and convenient as possible for employees and students to receive the seasonal vaccine.
In September, University Medical Center and Student Health Center nurses, and several other nurses hired for the vaccination effort, began traveling to buildings across campus to provide flu shots free to University employees and students. By the end of September, approximately 6,300 employees and students had received the vaccine.
Now, the nurses are setting up vaccination stations in University dormitories. Students and employees can receive free flu shots at these locations from noon until 4:30 pm: Paty Hall on Tuesday, Oct. 9, in the lobby; Presidential Village on Wednesday, Oct. 10, in the lobby; and Riverside Community Building on Thursday, Oct. 11, on the second floor.
Nurses will also provide free flu shots Oct. 24 from 10 am until 3 pm at the Student Health Fair at the Ferguson Center.
Elizabeth Cockrum, MD, the associate dean for Clinical Affairs for the College of Community Health Sciences and a professor in the Department of Pediatrics, says it is important for students to get a flu shot.
“While the flu is usually not a serious or life-threatening illness for healthy college students, they can get very sick for several days and miss classes, which could hurt their grades,” Cockrum says. “Also, the flu is highly contagious and can easily spread through a campus.”
Though everyday preventive actions, such as hand washing, can help prevent transmission of many types of germs, the best way to avoid influenza infection is to get vaccinated, Cockrum says.
In addition to the dormitory sites and the Student Health Fair, free flu shots are also offered at the Student Health Center, University Medical Center’s Faculty-Staff Clinic and at WellBama sites across campus, and will be offered at the Oct. 10 University of Alabama Employee Health Fair, while supplies last.
University organizations and groups that would like the flu team to make a special site visit to provide free vaccinations to their members can contact Cockrum at 348-6720 to schedule a visit.
Cockrum says for the past several years, the University has had a number of initiatives dedicated to improving the health and wellness of employees and students. “Addressing preventable illness, such as influenza, is part of those wellness initiatives,” she says.
In past years, approximately 1,500 flu shots were provided to University faculty and staff, mostly through the Employee Health Fair, and the Student Health Center provided about 2,000 shots to students. This year, University administrators considered the barriers to employees and students getting flu shots and cost and convenience were at the top, Cockrum says, so the University purchased 8,000 inoculations to provide free to faculty, staff and students.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that everyone aged six months and older get a flu vaccine each year.
The seasonal flu vaccine protects against three influenza viruses that research indicates will be most common during the upcoming flu season. Risks associated with receiving a flu shot are extremely small, and the viruses in the flu shot are inactivated so they cannot cause the flu.
Flu shots are free to employees and students as part of the flu vaccination campaign, and spouses of employees can also receive free flu shots as long as they are covered by and have proof of University health insurance. The insurance covers influenza vaccinations for dependent children and these can be obtained at the Faculty-Staff Clinic as well.