Demographically, college students are among the least likely age group to receive their flu shots, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
To combat this, local universities have made the vaccine more accessible by offering low-cost flu clinics. This year, the University of Pittsburgh, Duquesne University, Point Park University and Carlow University are all reporting upticks in students receiving theirs through college clinics, not including individuals who go through their primary care physician or outside medical facilities.
On Duquesne’s campus, the Center for Pharmacy Care tracks and records students receiving flu shots through on-campus clinics. Already this year, 675 have received their shot, compared to 429 who received it in total last year.
In 2017, about 3,500 students at Pitt got the vaccine on campus. This year, that number was already surpassed by mid-November. Elizabeth Wettick, the Medical Director of the University of Pittsburgh's Health Clinic, said she tries to remind students that while they’re young healthy college students, the vaccine is not to protect them, but to protect others, especially around the holidays.
“You know when your grandmother gives you a nice big hug and smooch because she hasn’t seen you in a while?” Wettick said. “If you’re ill with the flu in a mild sort of way, you could pass it to her and she could have much more ill effects just because her immunity isn’t that much more robust.”
Officials at Pitt, Duquesne and Point Park said better marketing and increased access resulted in more students getting the vaccine, as well as providing more accurate information about the shot.
Wettick said students often choose to not get flu shots due to myths about the vaccine.
“They often think that it will get them sick, so that is something from an education point we always make a point which is that it’s an inactivated virus and will not make them ill,” Wettick said.
The CDC says the flu typically peaks between December and February, so it’s never too late to get vaccinated.
WESA receives funding from the University of Pittsburgh.