UF students, employees find good things in small packages this flu season
With a grimace and a grip on her friend Jayce Victor’s hand, Whitney Hughes bared her arm for a flu vaccine injection.
“I’m so scared, I’m a baby,” said Hughes, a sophomore studying political science. “I usually get the nasal spray.”
In a matter of seconds, Margaret Berry, R.N., a registered nurse from the UF Student Health Center, finished administering the shot via a new method that uses a much shorter needle than usual and delivers the vaccine into the skin rather than into muscle. That potentially means less discomfort as well as less vaccine used to provide the same level of protection against the flu as a traditional injection.
The new vaccination system, called Fluzone Intradermal, was licensed earlier this year by the Food and Drug Administration for use in adults ages 18 to 64. The UF Student Health Care Center is offering free vaccinations to faculty, staff and students just in time for National Influenza Vaccination Week, which is being observed Dec. 4-10.
“It wasn’t that bad,” said Hughes, who is from St. Petersburg. “I expected that it was going to hurt much more than it actually did.”
The new vaccine system could prove a more tolerable option for people like Hughes who forego a seasonal flu vaccine because they don’t like the needle. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that everyone age 6 months and older get an annual flu vaccine.
“When you get vaccinated you’re not only protecting yourself, but also those around you,” said Phillip Barkley, M.D., director of the UF Student Health Care Center. “So the more people that we can get vaccinated, the more likely we are to protect the entire community.”
In addition to offering vaccines on a walk-in basis in its clinics, the health center held vaccination outreach sessions this week at the Reitz Union and at Santa Fe College.
“It was very convenient to have them here at the Reitz Union,” said physics professor Selman Hershfield, Ph.D., who stopped for a flu shot as he walked across campus. “And the needle was certainly less intimidating than the old one.”
A limited supply of Fluzone Intradermal vaccine doses were supplied to UF at no cost by the manufacturer, Sanofi Pasteur.
Flu can cause mild to severe illness or even death. Young children, older adults, pregnant women and people who have health conditions such as asthma or a weakened immune system are especially at risk of serious complications from a flu infection. People who live with or care for others who are at high risk of flu-related complications should also get vaccinated. The number of flu-related deaths fluctuates from year to year, and estimates from the CDC range from 3,000 to 49,000 deaths a year. UF got notification this week from the state laboratory of the first influenza case on campus.
“The impact of flu in the U.S. is huge, and vaccination is an effective way to decrease the burden,” Barkley said. “We support this public health measure completely and we have a commitment to vaccinating the UF community.”
Victor, a junior majoring in philosophy, had gotten vaccinated just moments before seeing his friend Hughes walk by and recommending that she also get vaccinated. He usually gets a flu every year and was surprised at how uneventful the new process was.
“The nurse was finished before I even realized it,” he said. “I was waiting, and she said ‘that’s it.’ Usually they put bandages on — but I didn’t even need that.”
For more about the seasonal flu vaccine and campus clinic locations, including the Dental Tower in the UF Health Science Center, visit the UF Student Health Care Center website.