University Health Services is urging students to receive a flu vaccination this fall to prevent COVID-19 and flu patients from taking up hospital space and resources simultaneously.
“We can wear masks, we can social distance, we can wash our hands, we can avoid crowded places … but we don’t have a vaccine for (COVID-19),” said Sherry Bell, consumer education and outreach coordinator for UHS and the Counseling and Mental Health Center. “If people get a flu shot, they can take that step toward freeing up the health care system when people with COVID-19 might really need that.”
This semester, UHS’s flu shot clinics will operate by appointment only. Faculty, staff and students must complete necessary paperwork online before the appointment, have a UT ID or driver’s license and show a “Clear to Come to Campus” pass on the Protect Texas Together app.
Appointments will take about five minutes, down from the 20-minute vaccinations in previous years, Bell said.
“The only thing they will have to do is show their ID … at the door and when they see the nurse,” Bell said. “There’s not any signatures or sharing of pens or anything. The goal is for it to be a significant social distanced minimal line, super low touch environment for safety.”
Nursing junior Joyce Garcia said it is especially important to get a flu shot this fall to preserve hospital resources for COVID-19 patients. Garcia said she plans on getting her shot from UHS.
“I feel like it’s my responsibility, especially as a nursing student, that I don’t put more strain on hospitals and clinics at this time,” Garcia said. “It’s in the back of my head that I’m doing it for the nurses who are going through a lot right now because of the pandemic.”
Because symptoms of COVID-19 and the flu are similar, it may be difficult to tell the difference by symptoms alone, according to the Centers for Disease Control’s website.
Rohini Chahal, a Plan II and biochemistry sophomore, said she is concerned about potential confusion between flu and COVID-19 symptoms and hopes the UT community will take the time for a flu shot this year.
“People need to get (the flu shot) so they can at least put their minds at ease and not confuse the (flu) with something they really need to be tested for,” Chahal said.
Chahal said she is allergic to the eggs that flu shots contain but still gets one almost every year. Flu shots contain a small amount of egg proteins because they are manufactured using egg-based technology, according to the CDC.
UHS cannot provide flu shots to those who are allergic to eggs, so Chahal drove to Houston this year to receive the vaccine from her primary care physician.
“I know a lot of people, including myself, feel like they can’t do anything for the community during COVID-19 and feel like they’re useless and helpless,” Chahal said. “But getting a flu shot is the most tangible thing you can do, and it can actually help people and prevent confusion in the community. I feel like if people can’t do that then that’s just disappointing.”