It’s no secret; the influenza virus has taken thousands of lives the past couple years.
The United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported 172 children have died from the 2017-18 flu virus as of June. Roughly 7.7 percent of all U.S. citizens seeking medical care have experienced flu-like symptoms. At this current rate, this year’s flu season is projected to be at its worst since the peak of the 2009 swine flu pandemic that took the lives of nearly 203,000 people worldwide.
At Plattsburgh State, the annual flu vaccination is no longer being administered for free.
Director of the Student Health and Counseling Center Dr. Kathleen Camelo said the price for the newest flu vaccine on the market increased in price, as it now protects against four strains of the virus instead of three.
“We just couldn’t afford to buy it anymore,” Camelo said, explaining how the Center would’ve had to budget $14,000 and raise the student health fee if they continued offer free vaccinations. “We really try to keep [the fee] as affordable for students as we can.”
However, to avoid this cost and still provide an affordable option for students and faculty, the Health Center partnered with Kinney Drugs to host a flu shot clinic at PSUC.
The first clinic was held on Sept. 27 and 28 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. in the Cardinal Lounge of the Angell College Center. Students and faculty who attended were asked to fill out a form and to provide their medical insurance card in order to be vaccinated by a pharmacist.
While the Health Center staff assisted Kinney Drugs during the clinic, the patient’s insurance was billed about $30 for the shot, resulting in both parties not having to pay anything.
“[Kinney Drugs] came in and did 300 shots over the course of two days,” Camelo said. “The clinic went well, and they were pretty pleased with the number of students.”
Camelo also said there is another clinic scheduled with Kinney Drugs for later this month with a tentative date of Oct. 25.
But some PSUC students don’t feel the need to get a flu shot. Juniors Abby Cook and Raven Cunningham are work study students at the Health Center this semester. This is Cook’s first semester working for the Center, and Cunningham has worked there since the spring.
Their job consists of taking phone calls, stapling papers and handling the Health Center’s self-care station.
Neither Cook nor Cunningham has gotten vaccinated this season.
“I never have in my entire life,” Cook said. “I’m just pretty healthy on my own. I rarely get sick, so my parents never thought I really needed it.”
While she has been encouraged by her co-workers to get vaccinated because of her close proximity to sick patients, Cook said she is considering the offer but is still unsure. Cook explained how the demand for the shot would be high, especially on a college campus, but how she also thinks it comes down to the individual.
“I have a pretty good immune system, so I don’t think I need it,” Cook said. “Everyone’s different.”
For Cunningham, being a work study at the Health Center has been positive in her goals as a pre-med and psychology major at PSUC.
Due to an allergic reaction of swelling, Cunningham said she hasn’t gotten a flu shot since the sixth grade but has never came in contact with the flu since then.
“I feel like I take pretty good care of myself in this type of season,” Cunningham said.
Similar to Cook, Cunningham said she thinks there are different beliefs about flu shots, especially on a college campus.
“There are people that don’t care about their health, and there are people that do,” Cunningham said. “It just depends on the person.”
Despite this, Cunningham said she is confident in the Health Center’s efforts to make flu shots more affordable by running the sponsored clinics.
“If you’re very prone to getting the flu or a developing sickness, maybe [a flu shot] is something that’s for you,” Cunningham said. “I just had a bad experience, but if you’re [susceptible], you should get it.”
Because of the times she has seen students become ill by not receiving a vaccine, Camelo sees a strong value in getting the flu shot.
The Health Center has not had any documented cases of the flu this year, as certain tests they’ve done on sick patients have come back negative — the symptoms of the common cold.
“There are definitely those students who don’t feel the need until they get sick, but it takes two weeks for the shot to work, so people that get sick right after the shot have been exposed to some other disease before the shot becomes effective,” Camelo said, explaining how the vaccine contains a dead virus to help the immune system produce antibodies and fight off any flu bacteria that the body might come in contact with.
Even though the shot can’t be administered in-house anymore for financial reasons, Camelo said she’s glad the sponsored clinics can still give students and faculty the opportunity to get vaccinated and stay healthy.
“I miss the [free] clinics, but on the flip side, now I’m just helping out a different agency to make it more affordable,” Camelo said.
However, with the number of flu-related hospitalizations and deaths climbing dramatically, students like Cook recognize the dangers of the impending epidemic.
“When you think of the flu, you wouldn’t think of it as something that could actually kill you, but it does,” Cook said. “Annually, so many people do end up in the hospital and dying from the flu. It’s very terrifying.”
Email Emma Vallelunga at firstname.lastname@example.org