Flulapalooza has been shifted to a long term distribution of free influenza vaccines at the Student Health Center, due to COVID-19 social distancing guidelines.
Traditionally an all-day event, Flulapalooza has been a Vanderbilt fall tradition since 2011, with 15,626 vaccinations last year. However this year, Vanderbilt has shifted to two long-term events starting on Sept. 8 called Flula-2-uza and Avoid the Flu at VU. Flula-2-uza, a vaccination campaign for faculty and staff, and Avoid the Flu at VU, for current Vanderbilt students, will promote the thimerosal-free, latex-free, quadrivalent inactivated vaccine.
Students can visit the Student Health Center to get a flu shot anytime between 8 a.m. CDT and 4 p.m. CDT Monday through Friday free of charge. Students can also get their flu shots on two Saturdays during flu season, on Sept. 16 and Oct. 17, from 10 a.m. CDT until 2:30 CDT. No appointment is needed. These past 2 weeks alone, over 2,223 students have visited the Student Health Center to receive vaccinations. In addition, The Dean of Students sent an email on Monday about free flu shots at the Student Health Center.
Dr. William Schaffner, a professor of preventive medicine and infectious diseases at the Vanderbilt University Medical Center (VUMC), stated that the influenza vaccine will prevent many infections. Schaffner said because of the similarities of COVID-19 and the influenza flu, it is critical to get a flu shot.
“Flulapalooza had to be modified, bringing a large amount of people even momentarily was not the right thing to do in the Covid environment,” Schaffner said.
Schaffner also spoke about how getting vaccinated would decrease the likelihood of spreading flu, as well as the confusion that may arise discerning flu and coronavirus symptoms. He stated that because they both are respiratory viruses, there will be a lot of difficulty parsing them apart, and getting a vaccine would take a substantial load of work off the healthcare system.
Sophomore Addison White stated that getting vaccinated is very important, especially this year and in a college campus setting.
“Getting vaccinated is more important than ever, anything we can do to keep ourselves healthy because it’s not only benefiting us but also benefiting others,” White said.
Elissa Koh, a junior, expressed concerns that due to this year’s influenza campaign taking place over a long period of time, getting a vaccination for some students wouldn’t take as much precedent.
“Having different options to separate bigger crowds was smart, but too long of a period might decrease the urgency. People might push it back and procrastinate,” Koh said.
Lori Rolando MD MPH, director of the Occupational Health Clinic at VUMC, said that despite the changes to this year’s vaccination event, getting an influenza vaccination is a necessary precaution.
“We are in a great position to be flexible and provide a lot of innovative ways to provide flu vaccines to our Vanderbilt community,” Rolando said. “I’m hopeful that people, because of concerns of coronavirus and the need to mitigate flu infections will help increase the uptake of flu vaccines.”
She also said the importance of getting a flu shot to help those in the Vanderbilt community that may be facing existing health conditions that can both be exacerbated by the flu and increase the risk for getting influenza such as high risk individuals that are immunosuppressed, have chronic health conditions and especially for those who live with high risk people to protect them as well as themselves.
Rolando also said that getting vaccinated by the end of October would be ideal to effectively prevent the spread of the flu before it hits.
“Even though you are young, please get vaccinated,” Schaffner said. “Protect yourself and protect those around you.”