Thomas Ashworth, Correspondent
Jacksonville State University is offering free influenza vaccines to students as the campus prepares for flu season.
There are two locations where students can get their flu shot: every Tuesday in October from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. in the gym of Kennamer Hall and any time through the Student Health Center.
“The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that each year there are from nine to 45 million illnesses due to influenza,” said Jeff Ryan, JSU’s COVID-19 task force head. “Of those cases, there are 140,000 to 810,000 hospitalizations; and 12,000 to 61,000 deaths annually since 2010. Getting the annual influenza vaccine is the best thing you can do to prevent it.”
One common misconception among vaccine skeptics is that the flu shot can give you the flu. Both the CDC and Ryan explain that this isn’t true.
“Contrary to popular belief, the ‘flu shot’ doesn’t give you the flu,” he said. “It provokes your immune system to produce a protective antibody response so that when you become infected your body can muster a quick defense that keeps the infection from taking hold.”
Ryan also spoke about how the COVID-19 pandemic could potentially complicate the flu season and to be aware of similar symptoms.
“COVID-19 presents very much like the flu,” said Ryan. “Some of the symptoms are similar, especially early in the course of infection. As we go into flu season, we’d like very much to eliminate the number of flu cases on campus.”
Ryan further explained that cases of the flu will place additional strain on the Student Health Center, which has been grappling with COVID-19.
“Anyone who presents to the clinic with a flu-like illness will be initially suspected for COVID-19,” he said. “The fewer cases of flu that we have to contend with, the better.”
Flu shots are also being offered to employees of Jacksonville State University through the Alabama Department of Public Health. Upcoming dates for employees to get vaccinated are Oct. 22 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. and Nov. 9 from 12:30 p.m. to 2:30 p.m., but you must schedule an appointment in advance and bring an insurance card.
You can also stop by Walgreens on Pelham Road to receive a flu vaccine for no charge.
“Every measure that you are taking to keep you safe from COVID-19 will work for influenza,” said Ryan. “So, frequent hand washing, maintaining social distance, masking when in public and avoiding large gatherings will keep you from getting sick.”