As the crumpling of cough-drop wrappers, incessant sniffling and hacking coughs can be heard in classes and libraries around campus, there is little room for doubt – flu season has descended upon Yale.
In response, University Health Services has already begun to administer flu vaccinations to those at a higher risk for contracting the virus. But the rest of the student population will have to wait for vaccinations until next week, when YUHS opens up general flu-shot clinics.
Unlike last year, when a shortage of vaccine forced YUHS to ask those students not at risk to forego flu shots, officials said that despite an initial delay in obtaining the vaccines, there are enough supplies this year to accommodate anyone who wants to get vaccinated.
“Running out will not be a problem,” said Ellen Budris, YUHS assistant director of clinical administration.
Budris added, though, that YUHS is trying to administer flu shots first to those sectors of the population that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recognizes as the most at-risk, including individuals who are 65 years of age and older, pregnant, or between six and 23 months old. Those over the age of six months with asthma or other chronic diseases also fall into the at-risk category that YUHS has committed to vaccinating first.
Flu shots will be available to the rest of the Yale community starting next week, Budris said, after people in the at-risk groups have had a chance to get vaccinated.
But many students said they were not aware of the availability of flu shots, or when and where the clinics that offer the shots will be held.
Augustina Berro ’09 and Florentino Salazar ’08 said that while they know the opportunity to get a flu shot does exist, they have not seen any signs or information posted with details.
Budris said that it is difficult for YUHS to publicize such information because they are not allowed to send out mass e-mails to students. While YUHS has signs posted within its building and the information is also available on their Web site, Budris said they have to rely on the masters and deans of residential colleges to communicate the message to their students.
Even if students were more aware of the opportunities to get vaccinated, some said they might not choose to do so. Salazar said he is not planning on getting a flu shot, even though he was sick less than a month ago. He said that while he missed some class when he was sick, his condition was not serious.
English professor Christopher Miller said some students seem to handle getting sick in the same fashion as Salazar, by trying not to let it interfere with their academics too much but maybe missing a few classes.
“Yes, a few students have been missing class, but not more than I usually notice around this time of year,” Miller said.
But comparative literature and film studies professor Dudley Andrew and psychology professor Brian Scholl said they have not noticed many students missing class due to the flu.
“I’ve noticed people sniffling, but everyone seems to be holding up,” Andrew said. “I can tell people are under the weather, but they are still going to school.”
To avoid joining the masses of sick Yale students and faculty, Budris stressed the importance of personal hygiene.
“We know that hand-washing is the No. 1 way to keep these germs away,” she said.
Budris said asking people to cover their mouths and noses when they cough or sneeze will also help prevent the spread of the virus.