SU promotes health and wellness with free flu shots

Faculty, staff, and students can receive no-charge influenza vaccinations, but awareness is a critical first step.

Members of the SU community enjoy a privilege that not every university offers come winter: Influenza shots, free and accessible for all.

Kathy Van Vechten, in charge of flu vaccinations at SU’s Health Services, said that the university initially ordered 3,000 doses of the vaccine, and recently ordered 400 more.  Each shot cost the university around $10.

“People think if they’re generally healthy they don't need a flu shot."
- Adriana Sereno

While Van Vechten could not provide an exact number of students who have been immunized so far, she estimated that the number is “fewer than in past years.”

Susan Furtney, director of the faculty and staff University Wellness Initiative since last July, said that approximately 1,200 shots were ordered specifically for SU employees. According to Furtney, the Wellness Initiative’s purpose is to improve awareness, education, and access to services that will help faculty and staff on their journey to better health; free flu shots are a big part of that goal.

“The flu is the most common denominator for people," Furtney said. "Health behavior change starts with awareness.”

Katelyn Cowen, a health and wellness promotions specialist in the Division of Student Affairs, sees a lack of health awareness all the time.  Through her work with the University, Cowen has encountered many myths surrounding the flu vaccine. For example, many believe that since getting a shot means receiving a weakened form of the flu, they will inevitably get sick.  However, the shot actually contains an inactivated vaccine, meaning the virus isn’t live. 

Another misconception: That the flu vaccine covers every flu virus.

Cowen explains that the flu shot “formula” changes every year as scientists analyze the most prominent flu types around the world and try to predict the major strains in the United States.

“It’s just not always the right one that they pick,” Cowen said.

Thankfully, there are plenty of other things one can do to prevent getting sick, Cowen said.  The biggest factors to prevent illness are germ management (more hand washing), stress management, and general self-care and hygiene.

However, even people who feel and seem good should get the vaccine.  

“People think if they’re generally healthy they don't need a flu shot,” said junior public health major Adriana Sereno, president of the Student Health Advisory Committee (SHAC). “That's where [Health Services] misses a lot of people.”   

Sereno said that she has also heard complaints from classmates about never receiving an email informing them that they could receive a free flu shot.  The mission of SHAC is to fill in the gaps of communication between Health Services and students, so the group’s public relations team has been helping to spread the word and provide other flu prevention tips.

Sereno said that she believes that another way to better prevent illness campus-wide would be to install more hand sanitizing dispensers – at every building entrance and exit, for example. 

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