Flu shots are more important than ever

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Photo Credit: Taylor Sweet | Daily Texan Staff

It only took a few weeks for an outbreak of COVID-19 to escalate into an unprecedented health crisis. Public health officials predict that this year’s flu season might follow a similar trend. Luckily, it’s not too late to avoid a “twindemic.”

Every year, the flu shot prevents millions of infections and tens of thousands of hospitalizations. In a high-traffic area such as the Forty Acres, the flu is highly transmissible. To reduce the likelihood of yet another devastating outbreak, all students, faculty and staff who are able to do so must get vaccinated by late October –– the CDC’s recommended deadline.

In spite of health experts’ alarming predictions, UT students have scheduled a concerningly low number of vaccines through University Health Services.

“At this point in time last year … we had done about twice as many flu shots,” said Sherry Bell, University Health Services and Counseling and Mental Health Center public information team member. “Part of (the reason why) is the decision to administer flu shots by appointment this year so we can keep people safe … That’s why we’re offering more days to get (the flu shot) this year than last year.”

University Health Services will offer the vaccine until Oct. 23 while most pharmacies offer it past that date. With the flu shot readily available on and off campus, there’s no excuse to miss the CDC's vaccination deadline.

For mechanical engineering sophomore Eric Williams, getting the flu shot early was especially important this year.

“I thought it would be a good idea to get the shot because it would be scary if I got sick with the flu and thought I had COVID-19,” Williams said.

The flu and COVID-19 share more than just their symptoms. Both respiratory illnesses call for many of the same treatments, including antiviral medications and ventilator support.

For this reason, Bell believes a bad flu season would exacerbate the current strain on health care systems.

“Getting the flu shot keeps people with the flu from going to the doctor and taking up medical resources that might be needed by folks with COVID-19 who cannot prevent their condition with a vaccine,” Bell said.

Apart from boosting public health, the flu shot can safeguard personal wellness and academic performance. Getting sick with the flu can prevent students from attending class for several days and leave them feeling weary for weeks. While it is possible to get the flu after receiving the vaccine, it's symptoms are not nearly as debilitating.

Biology senior Sabrina Benitez can attest to this.

“Because I had my flu shot, the doctor told me my (flu) symptoms would be very mild,” Benitez said. “I was able to recover within five days or so, so getting the shot was helpful for me.”

This year, the flu shot is not only helpful, it’s necessary to keep the UT community healthy.

“It’s my duty to get the flu shot to not only take care of myself but to take care of those around me, especially being at a very large university,” Benitez said.

For those on campus, it only takes one simple step to schedule an appointment with University Health Services. Students, faculty and staff can log into MyUHS and click “Schedule a Flu Shot Appointment.”

For those away from campus, most major pharmacy chains, including most Walgreens and the CVS inside the Target right off campus, are administering flu shots by appointment or walk in.

We couldn’t stop COVID-19 from spiralling into a virulent mess. It doesn’t have to be the same way with the flu. Listen to the CDC and get your flu shot before the end of the month if you haven’t already.

Harwood is a public health freshman from Houston, Texas.