Harvard beats Yale to flu clinics

Students fearing the imminent onset of the flu season will have to wait a little longer for their influenza vaccinations.

Yale Health, a department of the Yale University Health Services, will hold five student vaccination clinics this year, with the first on Oct. 25 in Payne Whitney Gymnasium. The date is later than that of several of Yale’s peer institutions. Princeton’s first student flu clinic was held on Oct. 6, according to their health website, while Harvard’s began almost a month ago on Sept. 20, David Rosenthal, the director of Harvard University Health Services, said. Some Yale students said they are anxious that the college’s clinics might come too late for the vaccination to be completely effective.

“I don’t want to get sick right before midterms or finals,” Camy Anderson ’14 said.

Four out of 10 students interviewed said they were anxious about the late-October clinic dates.

Harvard scheduled its flu clinics this early in the year to ensure that all students who want the immunization can receive it by November, said David Rosenthal, the director of university health services at Harvard.

At Yale, even the most health-conscious students will have to wait until mid-November to be fully protected from the flu. The influenza vaccination takes approximately two weeks to reach full effectiveness, according to the Yale Health website.

The Center for Disease Control reported online that the 2009 flu season peaked around mid-October in the United States. But James Perlotto ’78, chief of Yale Student Health, said that this high point was due to the outbreak of H1N1 flu that occurred much earlier than the routine annual flu season. This year, he said he predicts December and February to be the months with the largest number of flu victims, he said, explaining that this shift validates the decision to hold flu vaccination clinics around late October.

But Yale public health professor Jody Sindelar said that predictions can be hard to get right, and that some people worry about getting the shot too early as their immunity might end before the flu season ends. But she also said that the current recommendation from the CDC is to get the immunization as soon as it becomes available this year.

Given this suggestion, some students questioned why Yale decided to schedule its clinics comparatively late.

The influenza vaccine arrives at Yale as soon as distributors make it available, Perlotto said. But this year, the anticipated early delivery of the vaccine was postponed due to a problem with labeling, Director of Yale Health Paul Genecin said. Students have little to worry about until the usual flu outbreak in winter, he added.

While some were worried, other students dismissed the matter altogether.

“I wouldn’t get a flu shot even if they were available right now,” Avi Arfin ’14 said. “[Influenza is] not that big of a deal.”

Indeed, many students at Yale seem to share this viewpoint.

Genecin estimated that perhaps 2,000-3,000 students university-wide will receive the shot this year, based on experience from previous flu seasons.

“There wasn’t a huge interest in vaccine among Yale students last year,” he said.

Our rivals up north might be a little healthier than we are. Rosenthal estimated that more than 50 percent of Harvard undergraduate and graduate students typically receive the vaccination, claiming that last year Harvard University Health Services successfully immunized all students who wanted protection from the flu.

In addition to the flu vaccination clinic on Oct. 25 in Payne Whitney, Yale Health will hold clinics on Oct. 26 and Nov. 4 at Yale Health Center.

Grace Patuwo contributed reporting.

Comments