It is almost impossible to find a college student who is anti-vaccination. It is also almost impossible to find a college student who has gotten their flu vaccine this year.
The benefits of flu shots make this gap all the more confusing. Naturally, vaccinated people are less likely to contract the flu. In cases where people do get the flu, several studies show that the vaccine reduces the severity of the illness. This prevents ICU visits, absences from class and runs to CVS to buy cough drops and Tamiflu. Finally, receiving the vaccine helps protect others from getting the flu through herd immunity.
So why don’t college students get their flu shot? I asked some of my friends why they hadn’t gotten their flu shot yet, and I heard many different excuses.
One such friend, Katie Gleason, Fordham College at Lincoln Center (FCLC) ’22, passionately defended herself in the dining hall.
“I’m not proud of this, but here’s the thing: In my experience it doesn’t change my likelihood of getting the flu. I haven’t gotten the flu shot in the past five years and only contracted it when I did get the shot. I just believe in myself and my immune system.”
Beyond the strength of Gleason’s immune system, the rationales of all the people I asked who hadn’t received their flu shots yet laid in three main categories: they claimed that they got the flu from the flu shot, they claimed they didn’t need one because they’re healthy and they claimed that even if they wanted to get one, there’s nowhere they could do so.
All of these are false and are not good reasons to not get your flu shot.
So let’s break these down:
Myth: You can get the flu from the vaccine.
Myth-busted: You can’t get the flu from the vaccine, as it’s made from an inactivated virus that cannot transmit the disease. The vaccine does take two weeks to reach full effectiveness, however, so if you’re exposed to the flu beforehand or during those two weeks you can still get it.
Myth: You’re in your physical prime so you don’t need the vaccine.
Myth-busted: The flu can infect anyone, but even if you are in your peak physical fitness, getting the flu vaccine helps protect everyone else, especially on a college campus like ours where people are all crammed together and illness spreads quickly.
Myth: There’s nowhere to go to get your flu shot.
Myth-busted: There are four pharmacies — Walgreens on Broadway, CVS on 57th Street, Duane Reade on Amsterdam Avenue, and CVS on Columbus Avenue — where you can get your flu shot within five blocks of Fordham’s Lincoln Center campus, and it is free under most insurance plans. That’s your best bet, but you can also get a flu shot through Fordham Health Services (for $30 — shame on them).
With the ease and overwhelming benefits of getting a flu shot, it is appalling that more college students do not get the vaccine. Apathy and ignorance are not valid excuses. Influenza is a serious disease with serious consequences.
Last year alone, multiple grade schools had to temporarily shut down because their rate of infection was so high. Because of flu-related infections, 30,453 people had to be hospitalized. Approximately 80,000 people died, including 183 children from the ages of 1 month to 17 years old.
These are real people, with real lives and real stories. The thing about the flu shot is that it works. It provides benefits that stretch from the individual to the entire Fordham community and our nation. We, even as college students, all have a civic duty to keep ourselves and our community safe by getting our flu shots, especially when it is so easy to do so. It’s literally around the corner, and at a cost of zero dollars for the majority of students.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend for people to get their flu shots by the end of October, so if you haven’t yet, please give it a shot.