UT needs to provide free flu shots this year

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Photo Credit: Taylor Sweet | Daily Texan Staff

Editor's note: This column was submitted to the Texan by a member of the UT community

Flu season is upon us, but this year it looks a lot different than what we’re used to. Before COVID-19 drastically altered our lives, many of us viewed sickness as inevitable during the fall and winter seasons — a minor inconvenience. Now, we are seeing the importance of preventing the transmission of disease. To do this, we need to get our flu shots and they need to be free.

UT recently announced that flu shots would be available by appointment in the Texas Union Ballroom. Students and employees without insurance will have to pay ten dollars to get their flu shot. Though this is less expensive than places such as CVS and local hospitals, we need as few obstacles as possible.

If the flu shot were free on campus, then more students and employees would be able to get their vaccine this year. Currently, UT has stated that they will only offer the vaccine through Oct. 23. Flu season lasts much longer than Oct. 23., and UT is doing students and employees a disservice with this cut off date. It also has dangerous implications for hospitals and other healthcare providers that are overloaded with COVID-19 cases. If this timeframe isn’t extended, it’s all the more important to have the flu shot be free.

In the past, UT was able to administer thousands of flu shots yearly at walk-in flu shot events around campus in the fall semester. While many students are now at home, there are still thousands of students spread out in on-campus dorms, West Campus (previously a COVID-19 hotbed), Riverside and North Campus. It is especially troubling considering that most students live with multiple roommates. 

According to the Centers for Disease Control, everyone older than six months should get vaccinated every year, except for rare cases involving severe health conditions. Everyone within the UT community who is able to get the vaccine should be encouraged to get their flu shot this year, for the safety and public health of not only the UT community, but also the surrounding Austin community.

A flu shot can stop future hospitalizations that could consequently prevent others with COVID-19 from obtaining lifesaving resources and medical care. There are still personal protective equipment shortages nationwide, which have put healthcare workers everywhere at risk. The flu shot is more necessary this year than ever before.

During these turbulent times, we cannot put more students and employees at risk. In July, a custodian at UT died after being infected with COVID-19. Last week there was news of another staff member dying. Tragedies such as these need to be accounted for. 

The University of Texas System has the third-largest endowment fund in the United States. UT has not released a new round of the CARES Act — which distributed funds to students with financial need due to the pandemic — while other Texas schools already have. UT has the money and the resources to make the shotsfree this year. This is not something to take lightly. Let’s make the flu shot free.

Sixtos is an english senior from Baytown, Texas.