Should students opt out of free flu shots at UCF?
Chances are that you or someone you know has been sick from the flu before. It can last for weeks and leave victims feeling worse than they have ever experienced in their lives.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently released data stating that fewer than half of the people in the U.S. get the flu shot every year.
The UCF Health Center has upcoming times and events for free flu shots for students. They have many of these events throughout the semester and during peak flu season. The next one is scheduled for Oct. 15th at 8 a.m. at the Health Center's second-floor conference room. All students need is their student ID to get a free influenza vaccine.
According to the CDC's website, the flu season can start as early as October and last as late as May. The seasonal flu vaccine helps protect against the main flu viruses predicted to spread in the upcoming season. The CDC recommends that all people ages 6 months and older get the flu vaccine.
Jackie Hop is a registered nurse and nursing supervisor at UCF who recommends that all students get the flu shot early this year.
"The flu not only holds people back from being productive in school or at work, but it can be deadly. Cases of the flu have been diagnosed in this area since July," Hop said. "The flu spreads quickly. It is so important to get the flu shot as soon as possible. It takes about 2 weeks for you to develop immunity once you receive the flu vaccine."
The Health Center has free flu shots from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday for walk-ins and the shots are available in every pod during scheduled appointments, she said. The Health Center has also partnered with different areas on campus to bring the Mobile Flu Clinic to students.
Ian Mitchell is an accounting major in his senior year who says he never gets the flu vaccine.
"I've gotten other vaccines before. I've had all the usual ones, like for mumps. The one for the flu is the only vaccine I don't get," Mitchell said. "There are so many variations and strands of the flu virus. You can still get the flu even after getting the vaccine, so I don't bother."
Hop has some advice for the skeptics out there like Mitchell.
"Many students that have come to get the flu shot were those that had the flu or had a roommate with the flu last year. There are still a few students who 'do not want to get sick from the flu shot' or get autism," Hop said. "You can't get the flu from the flu shot. The flu shot is not a live vaccine.
"It is possible to get a fever in the first 24 hours. This is a normal immune response that you could get with any vaccine. You can't get autism from the flu shot. Oh, and most importantly, your arm will not fall off."
Alex Murphy, a sophomore industrial engineering major, said he hasn't decided whether or not to get the vaccine this year.
"I know a lot of people who have had the flu before. I have been very fortunate not to have caught it yet," Murphy said. "I think the flu shot could be beneficial for people."
But knowledge of the flu shot is best spread by word of mouth, said Hop, who hopes students educate their families and loved ones about the dangers of the flu.
"Flu seasons are starting earlier and lasting longer," she said. "Protect yourself the best you can: Wash your hands well and frequently, cover your coughs and sneezes, stay away from other people's coughs and sneezes, stay hydrated, get enough sleep, get a flu shot and, most importantly, share this education with your friends and family."
The next opportunity for students to receive free flu shots is Oct. 15 at 8 a.m. at the Health Center second-floor conference room. For more information on where you can get a free flu vaccination on campus, go to www.hs.sdes.ucf.edu/flu.