Every fall, millions of Americans line up to be immunized
against the flu. On campus, students typically have easy access to
the vaccine; health officials even visit residence halls to protect
students against the ailment. But last week, British regulators
blocked 50 million doses from reaching the public after safety
concerns were raised about the vaccine’s purity. Despite the
health risks associated with the flu, low-risk students and adults
should refrain from seeking out the vaccine this year so that
high-risk individuals can be immunized.
Julie Gerberding, the director of the federal Centers for
Disease Control and Prevention, said many of the 50 million
high-risk individuals likely will not receive the vaccine this
year. These individuals include young children, the elderly,
pregnant women and health care workers. Thankfully, University
Health Service is discouraging individuals who are not at high risk
from receiving the vaccine. UHS must adhere strictly to this
guideline so that students who merely do not care to be
inconvenienced by the sniffles and fever that come along with the
flu do not use up the scarce vaccine supply.
It is unfortunate that students will not be able to be
vaccinated this year, as they were able to in the past. Students
live in close quarters in residence halls and in small apartments
and overflowing houses off-campus. These are excellent environments
for the flu to spread. However, the risks to the student body pale
in comparison to the consequences of an outbreak in a nursing home
or a hospital.
Students will have to take practical steps to avoid a flu
outbreak on campus. These include washing their hands frequently,
covering their mouths and noses with a tissue when they sneeze or
cough and keeping their distance from sick students. This also
means that students who have the flu should stay home.
During fall break, students who want to be vaccinated but have
been turned down by UHS, should not search for the vaccine when
they go home. County health departments, clinics and stores in the
Detroit area do have the vaccine, but students should not canvas
the area in search of it, as young, healthy college students surely
do not need to be vaccinated as badly as high-risk individuals.
On a more positive note, research conducted at the University
will slightly reduce the shortage. The nasal spray vaccine FluMist
will become a popular alternative to the conventional vaccine.
FluMist, however, cannot save the day alone. There is not nearly
enough FluMist. Hundreds of senior citizens have been lining up in
the Detroit area to obtain the vaccine. They are in much more
desperate need of the vaccine than almost all of the students at
the University. Students and low-risk members of the University
community can and should help to preserve enough supply for those
who truly need it.