Don’t miss your shot: Why you should get your flu shot

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A doctor holding a vaccine. Make sure you get the flu shot so that you can stay safe during flu season. Photo by Retha Ferguson.

During the fall semester, with the University of Connecticut campuses operating with a full capacity and changing weather, one thing that most students are all too familiar with is that it’s rather easy to fall sick during this time. Especially since it is now flu season, it is immensely important to take preventative measures and get the flu vaccine. 

The flu vaccine is one of the easiest and best ways at preventing the flu. It is also much better than taking a risk and possibly contracting the flu, as symptoms of the flu include fever, chills, cough, sore throat, runny nose, headaches, muscle and body aches as well as fatigue, none of which sound the least bit pleasant. Most of these symptoms, if not all, are also consistent with symptoms of COVID-19; therefore, if one is not vaccinated for either, it may make it impossible to tell if one has COVID-19 or the flu.

Other symptoms of the flu can be life threatening; in rare, extreme cases, people may be hospitalized for the flu, as it may trigger pneumonia, myocarditis (inflammation of the heart), encephalitis (inflammation of the brain) or sepsis, which is the body’s extreme, life-threatening response to an infection often leading to multi-organ failure. 

Although these cases are very rare and usually occur in those already at a higher risk for the flu, it is still imperative to get vaccinated if possible. Even though the flu vaccine is never 100% effective, it still provides a significant degree of immunity, and studies show that flu vaccines decrease the severity of infections. 

In addition, with COVID-19 still spreading around the world, getting vaccinated for the flu is even more important. Many health officials have predicted this year’s flu outbreak will be worse than usual since there were fewer infections last year, and therefore less immunity built up across the total population. Due to protective measures against COVID-19 last year, such as quarantine, social distancing, masks and other personal protective equipment, many people were not affected by the flu as compared to previous years, hence the lower degree of herd immunity. This year, with restrictions being lifted combined with this lower degree of immunity, the flu outbreak can very realistically be worse than in previous years. 

If that is the case, hospitals can easily become overwhelmed, which, as we have seen throughout the pandemic, is detrimental in so many ways. From people not receiving necessary oxygen to people having to travel extremely long distances for treatment, this is a scenario that the nation, and the world, for that matter, cannot afford. And, given the fact that COVID-19 is still spreading and mutating, it would be very beneficial to be vaccinated for both, especially because there have been cases where people have contracted both the flu and COVID-19 at the same time.  

The best way to prevent all of this from happening is to get vaccinated. In a recent survey, it was found that 44% of U.S. adults are either unsure or not planning on receiving the flu vaccine, and one in four adults who are at a higher risk for flu-related complications do not plan on getting vaccinated. These statistics are extremely concerning; more people should choose to get vaccinated in order to protect themselves and others around them. 

There are many places offering vaccines. At UConn, until Nov. 18, Student Health and Wellness (SHaW) is offering free vaccines to UConn Storrs students every Thursday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. in the Shippee Pequot room. To receive the vaccine, students only need a UConn ID. More information is available on SHaW’s website. Regional campus students, as well as others in general, can use the Vaccine Finder website in order to find a facility nearby that offers the flu vaccine. 

Flu vaccines are incredibly important to staying safe and healthy on campus and in general. Getting vaccinated for the flu truly is the best preventative measure one can take. 

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