Your favorite flu shot excuse might be a myth

By Genesis Cosme

Your favorite flu shot excuse might be a myth

By Genesis Cosme
Student Health Service dispels five common misconceptions about the influenza vaccine so that students, faculty, and staff can take charge of their health ahead of flu season.

One advantage of attending the University of Miami is the opportunity to interact with hundreds of people a day in our closely-knit community. Influenza also has the potential to reach a large network of community members who are at the highest risk of contracting and spreading the virus. Because of this, Student Health Service (SHS) urges everyone to prioritize their health by getting their flu shot every fall.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported the 2018-2019 flu season to be the longest season in 10 years with an estimated 531,000-647,000 hospitalizations and 36,400-61,200 deaths in the United States. Still, while 70 percent of college students believe in the importance of getting vaccinated annually, vaccination rates on US college campuses hover only between 8 and 39 percent.

“Unfortunately, there are still common misconceptions that students have that prevent them from getting their flu shot,” said Rachel Askowitz, health educator at SHS. “At Student Health, we not only want to make it as easy as possible for students to get their flu shot, but we also want to make sure that students know the truth about the vaccine and the seriousness of the flu.”

To help safeguard our campuses from vaccine-preventable diseases like influenza, SHS busts five popular myths that may keep someone from getting their annual flu shot.

'I got the flu shot once and still got sick.'

The most common side effects of flu shots include low-grade fever, headaches, and muscle aches. If a person experiences flu symptoms after they have been vaccinated, it is possible that they could have been exposed to influenza shortly before getting vaccinated or during the two-week period it takes for the body to develop immune protection. Sometimes, symptoms are even flu-like but can be due to another respiratory virus. Nonetheless, flu shots do not cause the flu. They are made either with a flu virus that has been ‘inactivated’ and are not infectious or a single gene from a flu virus to produce an immune response without causing infection.

'I am healthy. I don't need the flu shot.'

No matter how fit, active or healthy you are, influenza can carry a risk of serious complications, hospitalization or death. Symptoms can also begin 2 to 4 days after the virus enters the body, meaning you may be able to pass the flu to someone else before you even know you’re sick. This puts young children, older adults and people with certain chronic health conditions like asthma, heart disease or diabetes at risk as well.

'I got the flu shot last year, so I'm fine this year.'

Small changes in the genes of influenza viruses occur every year as the virus replicates, and occasionally, a virus with a new combination of genes emerges to quickly spread and infect, like the 2009 H1N1 outbreak. For this reason, a vaccine for one year may not cover viruses circulating the next season, and immunity developed one year may not last through the following year’s flu season.

'The flu shot is just a bad cold.'

The flu may cause bad cold symptoms, but the complications associated with the flu can be much more serious and even life-threatening to you and those around you. Flu vaccination has been shown to reduce the severity of illness in people who get vaccinated but still get sick.

'I have to go all the way to Student Health to get a flu shot.'

Each year, SHS hosts pop-up events around campus to offer students the opportunity to get a flu shot at their easiest convenience. Flu shots are available for UM employees at the Healthy 'Canes Employee Clinic.

Below is a list of upcoming flu shot events for students. The complete schedule is available at miami.edu/flushots.

Wednesday, Sept. 18
11 a.m. – 1 p.m.
Well ’Canes Market

Tuesday, Oct. 1
11 a.m. – 1 p.m.
UC Lower Lounge

Wednesday, Oct. 2
11 a.m. – 1 p.m.
Well ’Canes Market

Tuesday, Oct. 8
1 – 3 p.m.
Foote Green