Although Yale Health has been offering free flu shots to the Yale community since mid-October, some Yalies say that there is not enough time in their schedules to get vaccinated.

Flu season — which typically begins in October or November and lasts as late as May, according to the Center for Disease Control (CDC)’s definition — is an annual public health concern caused by the spread of influenza viruses. Last year, there were over 37.4 million reported cases of flu-related illnesses, and approximately 169 million doses of the flu vaccine were provided, according to the CDC. In some cases, flu vaccines have been shown to reduce the risk of having to go to the doctor with flu from 40 to 60 percent.

In line with the CDC and the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices’ recommendations that the flu vaccine be offered beginning at the end of October, Yale Health is offering free flu shot clinics to all Yale staff, faculty, students, senior citizens and members of the Yale Health plan. The clinics have been held multiple times a week since Oct. 15 and will continue until Nov. 23 of this year.

Of seven students interviewed by the News over the weekend, only two had received the flu vaccination.

Kasey Fields ’22 said that because she has never contracted the flu, she had never sought to receive a flu shot and did not plan to get one this year.

“I mean, I was told I should get one,” Fields said. “But I’ve never experienced the consequences of not getting a flu shot. If I had [ever gotten the flu] then I would probably have gotten a flu shot, but it feels like it would take time that I don’t have.”

Jack McArthur ’22 told the News, however, that the process was quite efficient. He likened the process to a “Chick-fil-A drive-through.” Although he expected the process to be an “imposition on [his] time,” he said, “it truly was not.”

Every year, many different strands of the flu virus circulate, and the vaccines are constantly changing. The composition of U.S. flu vaccines is reviewed annually and updated as needed to match the genetic makeup of circulating flu viruses, according to the CDC. This year, all vaccinations are either trivalent or quadrivalent — protecting against three or four different strands of the flu virus, respectively. While vaccination should optimally occur before the onset of flu activity in the community, the CDC recommends that providers continue to offer and encourage vaccination as long as flu viruses are circulating.

The CDC urges those seeking vaccination to avoid getting their shot too early — for example, in July or August — as it “may lead to reduced protection against influenza later in the season, particularly among older adults.”

Dennis Portillo ’22 told the News that he got the flu last year even though he had already gotten a flu shot.

“When I got the flu it was around late October, early November,” he said. “I think it was because I wasn’t sleeping enough and wasn’t taking care of myself, but I remember that the entire week I [was sick] in bed and I physically could not get out of bed until afterwards.”

Still, Portillo said he had not gotten a flu shot this season because it is not “the first thing [he thinks] about when [he has] free time.” He added that he has already been sick twice this season but he does not think either sickness was flu-related.

McArthur told the News that he did not get a flu shot last year because he was already immunocompromised at the time — too sick to receive the shot. This year, he said he “probably would not have gotten one” before a group of graduate students with whom he works convinced him.

“I wasn’t intending to go, but a number of grad students invited me to [go with them] and I was actually pleasantly surprised to learn that it took less than five minutes,” McArthur said. “They bring you into the room and a nurse would be like ‘Hey, what are you dressing up as for Halloween?’ and as you were talking about it, [you’d get the shot], so I spent about three minutes in the building.”

Yale Health administrators did not respond to requests for comment over the weekend.

The next flu shot clinic is Thursday, Nov. 7 from 2 p.m. to 7 p.m.

 

Audrey Steinkamp | audrey.steinkamp@yale.edu