A recent talk on campus told students that their wellness may be in danger—and they have to help themselves.
On Oct. 8, Temple’s chapter of Eta Sigma Gamma, or ESG, the National Health Education Honorary, hosted a vaccine myth-busting session in Ritter Hall’s Walk Auditorium. The presentation was led by Dr. Chip Altman, head of medical affairs at bioCSL, a local pharmaceutical company.
According to ESG’s Facebook page, the sorority’s mission is to “enhance the professional development of students through involvement in health education activities on Temple’s campus.”
With the support of Families Fighting Flu, a nonprofit dedicated to protecting the lives of children and their families through flu prevention, bioCSL is conducting a national campaign to educate college students on the importance of getting vaccinated.
When a representative from the campaign reached out to ESG to set up a free flu clinic on campus, senior public health major and president of ESG Francesca Boomsma took the request a step further, suggesting it deliver a talk to address anti-vaccination sentiments.
“We hear a lot in our public health classes about the controversy around vaccines,” Boomsman said. “We thought it was a really fitting time to bring something like this to fruition.”
Republican presidential candidate and reality television star Donald Trump is one of many celebrities contributing to the controversy of denouncing flu vaccinations. In his presentation, Altman included several of Trump’s tweets on the matter, including one that read, “Healthy young child goes to doctor, gets pumped with massive shot of many vaccines, doesn’t feel good and changes – AUTISM. Many such cases!”
After clarifying a connection between vaccination and autism has not been proven, Altman asked his audience for any more “nasty stuff” they heard were in vaccines. Responses included thimerosal and formaldehyde, two ingredients Altman assured exist only in small, harmless doses.
But these rumors and fears are not the only problem facing the world of vaccines. Because college students are constantly in such close proximity to one another, they are one of the populations most susceptible to the flu. Unfortunately, they also have one of the lowest vaccination rates. Altman said it was recently reported only 8 percent of students get vaccinated.
“It could be because you’re very busy,” Altman said. “It could be because you think you’re really strong and tough and you never get sick. So why would you need the flu vaccine?”
Despite this apparent lack of interest among students, the presentation drew a crowd. Boomsma said she was “really surprised” so many people attended and asked questions during the question and answer segment.
Sophomore speech pathology major Jordyn Green enjoyed the session.
“I thought it was very interesting,” Green said. “I didn’t even know there were people afraid of getting [the flu vaccine]. It was nice to hear about something that was new for me.”
“I think [the talk] did [make a difference],” Boomsma added. “Now people are aware that these vaccination companies are not the bad guys. They’re making these vaccines to save us, to prevent us from getting sick.”
ESG will be working with bioCSL for future events, including free flu clinics and a promotion that will enlist the help of the Philadelphia 76ers basketball team. They will continue to reach out to college students in particular.
“College campuses represent a population that is really critical to preventing diseases and conditions to be spread,” Boomsma said. “We’re the next generation of people that are going to educate the world on health practices.”
Brianna Baker can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.