Survey finds 50 percent of Mercer students haven’t gotten the flu vaccine

Written by: Dan Asnis

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Melissa Emley, Photography major at Mercer,  recalls that “It felt like having elephant sitting on my chest or something like that.” Emley’s case is one of many others reported as influenza this year.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has announced that “the proportion of deaths attributed to pneumonia and influenza were above the epidemic threshold.”

According to CDC, the symptoms of influenza include fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, headaches and fatigue.

A CDC report on January 29 said “Vaccination coverage levels among adults in the United States are unacceptably low.”  In the CDC’s statistics for the week of January 20-26, 25 percent tested positive for influenza.

As stated on the CDC website, “The single best way to protect against the flu is to get vaccinated each year.”

Emley had previously avoided the vaccine because she “did not trust them.” She believed she had gotten sick from it when she was young. After her recent experience she “would definitely get it in the future.”

In a VOICE survey of 44 MCCC students, 50 percent answered that they had not received the vaccine.

For those who have health insurance, the vaccine is available through clinics and doctors’ offices.  An option for those whose vaccine is not covered by or don’t have insurance is to get it at a local pharmacy but cost may be prohibitive for some students’ budgets.

At Walgreens, CVS, Rite Aid and Target the vaccine runs around $30. Some pharmacy chains offer discounts if you are a subscriber to their store prescription program.

Mercer biology professor Dr. Laura Blinderman explains that the flu vaccine comes in two different forms: a shot and an inhalable spray.

Blinderman told The VOICE, “There is no live flu virus in the vaccine so you can’t get the flu from the vaccine. The vaccine that is inhalable form, it’s like a mist you put in the nose, is a live vaccine but the virus has been weakened so it also can’t cause disease.”

Dr. Blinderman emphasizes “people should really start thinking every October about getting the vaccine no matter what the cost.”

In an email interview, Professor Barbara Kunkel, a coordinator of Mercer’s nursing program, she said that  “Our [nursing] students administered flu vaccinations at the West Windsor Senior Center in a volunteer effort.”  Prof. Kunkel went on to explain that the program “was sponsored by the West Windsor Community Health Department.”

Though Mercer’s nursing program is one of the college’s flagship programs, nursing students have not been able to offer any flu vaccinations on campus and, as has been reported in The

VOICE in the past, the campus has no health center. Last spring the LGBTF club helped secure the services of a local nurse who came to campus five days that semester, but the program did not survive to the fall.

It is unclear whether a program similar to the one held by the nursing students at the West Windsor Senior Center could be offered at Mercer if a sponsor could be found. Posters in campus bathrooms reminding students and staff to wash hands, be mindful of the signs of flu, and go home if they are feeling ill, suggest the college administrators are aware that flu can spread rapidly in unvaccinated populations.

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Dan Asnis
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