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Colleges Arm Students Against The Flu

Ann Kenda
A-State student Cadence Rutherford gets a flu shot at a mass clinic offered at the Red Wolf Center on Oct. 2, 2018

Colleges and universities around Arkansas are hoping for an easier flu season this year by offering vaccinations to students.

At Arkansas State University in Jonesboro, students and others streamed into a mass flu clinic at the Red Wolf Center in the middle of campus at a rate of about 100 people an hour to get their shots early in the season.

Student Steven Holmquist said he was more than willing to give up a few minutes of his time to get a shot to protect himself and others, since the flu can spread quickly on a campus.

“I think it’s important to be worried about other people’s health as well,” he said.

At the nearby NYIT College of Osteopathic Medicine at ASU, Dr. Brook Laurent said even young, healthy college students are at risk for the flu since they live, study and eat in close quarters with others. 

“It’s very forward-thinking,” she said of the free clinic that was easily accessible to students.

Traditionally, college students have a lower vaccination rate than the general public.  According to a recent study that aimed to find out why,  students were influenced by the feeling that they didn’t need the shot, not liking needles, not believing that vaccinations work or being concerned about perceived risks of the flu shot.

Dr. Lisa Ipp, a board member with the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases, said her study also found that college students are very receptive to incentives to receive a shot, such as a small gift or free food and entertainment at a mass clinic.

She said parents and health care providers also have a large influence on whether a college student receives a shot.

“Honestly, if other campuses would follow suit, I would be delighted,” Ipp said of ASU’s well-attended clinic.

At the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville, health officials will offer both scheduled appointments for flu shots and mass walk-in clinics on Oct 31 and Nov 1.

According to Zac Brown, an assistant director for communication at the Pat Walker Health Center at UA, the campus had a rough year with the flu in 2016 but saw improvement in 2017.  He said they’re looking for continued success this year.

“We really want to make sure that we’re doing our part to keep our campus healthy and prevent the spread of the flu virus,” he said.

Brown said UA will also focus on educational efforts about proper hygiene and flu avoidance techniques, in addition to vaccinations.

At ASU, student Cadence Rutherford heeded the warnings and got a shot at the mass clinic, even though she said she hasn’t had the flu before.  She said working asa waitress, she was not wanting to spread illness to her customers or her classmates and friends on campus.

“I feel like anybody can get the flu,” she said.

This story is produced by Arkansas Public Media. What's that? APM is a nonprofit journalism project for all of Arkansas and a collaboration among public media in the state. We're funded in part through a grant from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, with the support of partner stations KUAR, KUAF, KASU and KTXK. And, we hope, from you! You can learn more and support Arkansas Public Media's reporting at Arkansas Public Media is Natural State news with context.

Ann Kenda joined Arkansas Public Media in January 2017 from Sudbury, Massachusetts. She is a graduate of Syracuse University and previously worked in public radio, commercial radio and newspaper in Massachusetts and Rhode Island. She focuses on health, justice, education and energy as part of the Arkansas Public Media team. Her stories can be found on the airwaves, and social media.
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