Influenza: Not the Kind of Cold Worth Catching

Give the Flu Vaccine a Shot! It Could Prevent Symptoms like Fever, Dry Cough, Chills and Headache


The flu doesn’t discriminate. You may fear needles, but a quick prick can keep you healthy through the season. (Shirley Hon/The Observer)

Published: December 11, 2008

Flu season is underway, and with McMahon residents living in such close quarters, the spread of contagious diseases is almost unavoidable. Besides stocking up on Kleenex, Advil and chicken noodle soup, it may be in students’ best interest to invest in the flu vaccine.

According to the Fordham College at Lincoln Center (FCLC) Student Health Services office, Influenza, also known as the flu, affects five to 20 percent of the American population each year with symptoms like fever, dry cough, chills and headache. An average of 36,000 people die each year from the flu, more than any other disease that is preventable by vaccine.

When asked what they knew about the vaccine, students mainly shrugged, and some weren’t even sure whether or not they had gotten it.

Phoebe Forbes, FCLC ’12, confessed that she’s not sure which shots she had received during her last visit to the doctor. “I think my mom didn’t want me to get it because [she thinks] it’s bad for you [in that] you should learn how to fight [the flu] off on your own,” she said.

Tatyana Plutova, FCLC ’12, said, “Everyone says, ‘Oh, [the flu] vaccine. Old people and little children should get it.’” Like most students, she dismissed warnings about the severity of the flu and admitted that she would only get the shot if her parents advised it. The apathy she expressed probably isn’t what the school nurse wants to hear.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) defines the flu shot as “an inactivated vaccine, containing killed virus that is given with a needle, usually in the arm.” After about two weeks, antibodies develop and protect the body from influenza viruses. While young children and the elderly may be at the highest risk, a student can still catch the flu through nearby coughing, sneezing or physical contact. One can also get sick due to stress, lack of sleep and poor nutrition.

Unlike a visit to the pediatrician, there is no promise of a sparkly band-aid and lollipop for college students to compensate for the sharp needle. So what’s the incentive?  The CDC stresses that the importance of college students getting immunized is to keep themselves healthy and to prevent the spread of the flu virus. Not fun, but definitely sensible.

“Influenza vaccine is recommended for anyone who would like to decrease the chance of becoming ill with the flu or spreading it to others,” said Jennifer M. Mulvey, FCLC coordinator of health services. She also recommended the vaccination for students with “chronic medical conditions such as asthma, diabetes, kidney disease or weakened immune systems.”

Mulvey reasoned that students living in McMahon should especially consider getting the flu vaccine because dorm living “promotes the spread of any communicable diseases.” Though Plutova has never gotten the vaccine and stressed her desire not to, she advises those “adjusting to a different climate” may be more susceptible to getting sick and therefore have more reason to get vaccinated.

Some people still get the flu despite having gotten the shot; however, it’s due to unpredicted viruses that aren’t included in the vaccine and begin to spread. Chris Schneller, FCLC ’10, has received the vaccine once but isn’t convinced of its efficacy for young adults.

“It’s like if you live in a bubble and you come out of it when you’re 50,” he said, explaining that receiving the vaccine as a college student would only make one more vulnerable to getting sick later in life. “You should build up your immunity to protect yourself from viruses,” Schneller said.

While the influenza vaccination may not cover all the bases, Mulvey said, “With a flu shot, you’re likely to get far less sick than you would without any protection. The risk of a flu shot causing serious harm is extremely small.” According to the FCLC Student Health Center, minor side effects include “soreness, redness or swelling at the injection site, fever and aches lasting one-to-two days,” a small price to pay to avoid catching the flu.

Despite tolerable side effects and students’ anxiety towards the needle, FCLC Student Health Services administered roughly 70 vaccinations last flu season, which normally peaks in January according to the CDC. The flu shot is currently being offered at FCLC by appointment for all registered students for a $20 charge.

With the cold holiday weather right around the corner, the influenza vaccination is a serious matter for college students, especially those living in McMahon’s contagiously close quarters. Power Rangers band-aid or not, it’s worth the consideration.