The flu knocks you out like a sucker punch to the teeth. One minute you’re racing through your homework, going a mile a minute with nothing blocking your concentration. The next minute, you’re hunched over in bed with all the dignity of some inbred European monarch awaiting the last rites and reminiscing about the last time you had fully functioning nostrils.
This might seem like an overdramatization, but take it from someone who used to get the flu every November like clockwork — this isn’t a common cold.
In fact, in 2017, 12.7% of UT students reported that the cold, flu and sore throat negatively impacted their performance in school, making these issues the number one physical health condition that students must combat to keep their grades up over the year.
As such, University Health Services (UHS) organizes an annual flu shot drive every fall semester to encourage all UT students to get vaccinated and reduce their chances of getting the flu. Sherry Bell, UHS consumer education and outreach coordinator, said their goal is to reduce as many barriers to getting a flu shot as possible. For some students with busy work and school schedules, however, the flu shot drive falls short of this objective.
“I have to go to lab in the afternoons (when most of the drives are), and there’s an important timeline for all the experiments, and my grad student’s graduation date depends on my work at the lab, so I definitely don’t want to delay him,” chemical engineering junior Sanjna Sandeep said.
Biology sophomore Charles Yang also finds himself unable to make it to any of the UHS flu shot drives. “A lot of the times have been from 12 to 4 p.m., and I’m busy (with classes) Monday through Thursday (during that time),” he said.
When students don’t have access to the convenience of the UHS flu shot drive, they may forfeit getting vaccinated altogether to avoid the hassle of making other arrangements. Sandeep and Yang volunteer at hospitals that require them to get vaccinated, but Sandeep doesn’t think she would go out of her way to get a flu shot otherwise. This isn’t a unique sentiment — about half of the UT student body didn’t end up getting a flu shot in 2016.
Of course, the UHS drive isn’t the only place to get a flu shot; pharmacies at CVS and Target also offer vaccinations. However, most students find it much easier to stay on campus to get their shots.
“(The flu shot drive) was really fast and convenient because I don’t have a car, so I can’t go to other pharmacies,” biology junior Esther Kim said.
By including a few weekend dates in the flu shot campaign, UHS would be able to cater to the needs of the busy students whose class and work schedules don’t allow them to make it to the drive. Doing so would extend the scope of UHS’ efforts and strengthen the herd immunity of the UT campus so fewer people fall prey to the flu.
Alternatively, UHS could allow students to make clinic appointments to get their flu shots if they can’t make it to a drive.
“Until the campaign is over, we don’t schedule any appointments for flu shots. Doing a thousand shots with appointments would take a long time, so the campaign is the best way to get as many people immunized at one time,” Bell said.
While it makes complete sense to focus staff efforts on the large campaigns, students who can’t make it to a drive would be better reached if they could schedule a flu shot appointment at a time that does work for them.
Logistically, these solutions may be difficult and time-consuming to implement, but the potential benefits greatly outweigh the upfront costs. The flu knocks you out like a sucker punch to the teeth, so let’s make sure that all UT students have their guards up.
Dasgupta is a neuroscience sophomore from Frisco.