The Pros and Cons of Getting the Flu Shot

With flu season right around the corner, the University offers students the opportunity to protect themselves from the recurring illness through receiving the flu vaccine.

The vaccine shots were administered to University students and employees in Anacon Hall last month on Oct. 8, and will be offered again on Nov. 19.

On average, between 5 and 20 percent of United States residents get the flu each year and more than 200,000 people are hospitalized from flu-related complications annually, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) website.

University students, particularly those who live on campus, have an increased risk of getting the flu. Every year, multiple students contract the flu, according to Director of Health Services, Kathy Maloney.

“We have, like every other campus except for community colleges, residential living. And any time you have communal living, you have disease transmission,” Maloney said. The close proximity to others in an enclosed environment increases the chance of contracting any illness, and the flu is no exception, Maloney explained.

“The flu is spread through air droplets. If you are three to five feet away from anyone who has the flu who coughs or sneezes, you can get it. Or if you touch a surface, then touch your eyes, which are very vascular, it can enter into the bloodstream that way.”

Despite how contagious the flu is, and the fact that the University offers the vaccine every year, many students choose not to get vaccinated.

Maloney encourages everyone to take advantage of the opportunity to get the flu vaccine, especially because it is free for those with health insurance under the Affordable Care Act.

Students often think that they will never get the flu, although Maloney said, never say never. “The flu always seems to hit right when you don’t want it to hit. It’ll hit at finals or midterm time. If you truly have the flu, you are out sick for a week. Most students can’t afford to miss school for a week.”

Several myths about the risks of getting the flu vaccine can act as a deterrent getting the flu shot. One of the chief myths is that the flu vaccine can actually give you the flu, but the vaccine only contains a dead version of the virus. Although some people complain of soreness for a day or two after receiving the vaccine, it is impossible to catch the flu from the flu shot, according to webmd.com.

This perception is common among college-aged students, according to the CDC. Morgan Riley, a graduate social work student, said that he heard that he could get sick from the shot years ago, and has preferred to forsake the vaccine out of fear of getting ill from it.

“I’ve never gotten the flu shot before, and I’ve never gotten the flu,” Riley said. “I always wash my hands during the day.”

Riley continued, “You just hear all the information out there about the risks involving vaccines and shots for other diseases in infants, and I wouldn’t want to subject myself to that.”

Flu shots are recommended every year, even for those who have had a flu shot in the past because the virus mutates, according to Maloney. “What CDC does every year is try to predict the circulating strains for our flu season. They look at the strains that are circulating in the southern hemisphere of the world, because when it’s our summer it’s their winter,” she said.

Michael Hughes, an undeclared sophomore, said he received a flu shot last year and intends to continue to get the flu shot. “My mother kind of hounded me down last year until I got a shot,” said Hughes. “I didn’t even know they give it out here on campus. I’ll definitely get one when Monmouth offers it. I didn’t feel anything from the last one, and I’m sure it helped me.”

“The single best way to prevent the flu is to get the flu shot,” Maloney said. “The flu vaccine is very effective, and you never know when the flu is going to hit. Typically the flu here tends to hit in February, but we’ve had some years where it hit in November. It varies every year.”

Flu shots at the University are provided and administered by ESI Medical, a Lake Como-based health care firm. For more information about the flu vaccine, contact Health Services at (732) 571-3464.

PHOTO TAKEN from parade.com