Hundreds line up for flu shots

As part of a one-credit elective class, 48 students run the University's flu shot clinics each year.

Eric Swanson

Hundreds of students, faculty and staff lined up for free flu shots Tuesday in Moos Tower.

An estimated 1,100 people received flu shots at the clinic, the first in a series of vaccinations organized annually by students in the College of Pharmacy and School of Nursing, along with Boynton Health Service and Employee Benefits.

Boynton Health Service director Dave Golden said the clinics have helped reduce flu rates at the University since the program began four years ago.

As part of a one-credit elective course, 48 students run every aspect of the multi-day clinic each year. Duties include giving shots and screening potential patients. However, if the unprecedented popularity continues today, they might need to bring in more help, Golden said.

“There were over 200 people in the first hour,” Academic Health Center program director Judith Beniak said.

Last year, 7,900 students were immunized University-wide, Golden said.

The flu – or influenza – is typically passed from person to person through coughing and sneezing. Symptoms often last several days and usually include fever, headache, soreness and congestion.

Because virus strains vary from year to year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend people get vaccinated annually before flu season, which typically runs from November to May.

Students are particularly at risk because of poor eating and sleeping habits, Beniak said.

“The flu season is ahead, and this is a really good prevention. Getting a shot is a really good idea, especially for those living in the residence halls,” Beniak said.

Clinic organizers said they expected about 1,000 people Tuesday. Last year, about 500 were vaccinated at Moos Tower.

Organizers expect 1,700 people to attend today’s clinic in Coffman Union. However, Golden said that number might be exceeded.

“The turnout was amazing. They are already planning for more people to help out tomorrow at Coffman,” Golden said.

Pharmacy student Josh Van Veldhuizen, who worked at the clinic, said he participated to boost his real-world experience.

“I hope to gain the knowledge I need to give flu shots when I become a pharmacist. It gives us some experience dealing with people and giving the shots,” Van Veldhuizen said.

Alesha Kramer, a third-year nursing student who administered shots, said it was busy but no real problems occurred.

“I haven’t heard any screams. Things have been pretty mild,” Kramer said. “I have given nearly 30 shots in the last 20 minutes.”

First-year student Emily Branigan was there to receive her first flu shot. She said she wants to avoid getting sick, but that there were additional benefits to getting the shot.

“I live in the dorms, and I am already kind of sick,” Branigan said. “It hurt a little bit, but not too bad. It was worth it – I got cookies and pop.”

Graduate student Nathan Gossett said he felt he should get a flu shot because he has gotten sick the past few years.

“I haven’t had a flu shot in recent years and have gotten sick. So, I started up again,” Gossett said.

Mark Paller, vice president for research in the Academic Health Center, was present to receive a flu shot from the students.

“I’m a strong proponent of flu shots. I started having all of my patients get one,” Paller said. “It is nice for them to organize an event like this.”

Sue Wehmhoff, nursing student and co-chairwoman of the immunization tour, said offering shots is a great public service for students, staff and faculty.

Other stops on the tour include Coffman Union today, Centennial Hall on Nov. 20, the Recreational Sports Center on Nov. 24 and Middlebrook Hall on Nov. 25.