As flu season approaches amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Temple University students should get the flu vaccine to keep themselves and those around them healthy, said Marina Oktapodas Feiler, an epidemiology and biostatistics professor.
“It’s extra important to make sure that we receive influenza vaccines to decrease flu spread, especially because we do not know how COVID-19 and influenza can interact together within a state’s respiratory season,” Feiler said.
Influenza, commonly known as the flu, is a contagious respiratory illness that typically causes symptoms like fever, congestion, sore throats and headaches, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
People are most likely to contract the flu during cold months of the year, especially from October through April, Feiler said.
Medical experts predict this year’s flu season will be harsher than usual because Americans developed less immunity to the virus during the pandemic last year, when flu cases reached an all-time low as quarantine and isolation measures kept people inside, the Washington Post reported.
The flu shot is available at almost every pharmacy near Main Campus, including the Rite Aid on Broad Street near Oxford and the CVS on 12th Street near Cecil B. Moore Avenue.
Temple also offered flu shot appointments to students and employees at university clinics, which ran from Oct. 6 through Nov. 3 on Main Campus. After which they became available by appointment at Student and Employee Health Services, wrote Mark Denys, director of Student Health Services, in an email to The Temple News.
Temple administered more than 2,600 flu shots to students, faculty and staff as of Oct. 22, Denys wrote. The university scheduled an additional 950 people to receive flu shots on Oct. 27 and Oct. 28, he added.
Most people who receive the annual flu vaccine don’t experience side effects, according to the CDC. If they do, most side effects are mild and stop on their own in a few days.
Besides getting their flu shot, students should continue wearing masks, social distancing and washing their hands frequently to mitigate the spread of the flu and COVID-19, said Abby Rudolph, an epidemiology and biostatistics professor.
“We’re predicting the flu virus and how it has mutated for previous years at the beginning of every season and we aren’t always aware how it will end up,” Feiler said. “So with that being said, it’s even more reason to be extra cautious and get your vaccine and practice here social distancing and mask-wearing.”
Children under the age of five are considered at high risk from the flu because they are more susceptible to developing severe flu-related complications like pneumonia, brain dysfunction, dehydration or even death, according to the CDC.
“I think the cost-benefit ratio is very, very low,” Feiler said. “I think there’s very high benefits to receiving a vaccine for you but also for the rest of the community.”
Although flu cases were historically low during the 2020-21 flu season, the flu was the ninth leading cause of death in the U.S in 2019, according to the CDC. If flu cases become a leading cause of death this year, the healthcare system could become overwhelmed, which is especially dangerous during a pandemic. Intensive care units in hospitals across the city would need to ration care, like hospital beds, Rudolph said.
“This vaccine has been around for a long time, and is safe and is really one of the best ways to prevent flu-related hospitalizations,” wrote Aimee Palumbo, an epidemiology and biostatistics professor in an email to The Temple News. “Similar to our methods to protect against coronavirus, you are not just protecting yourself but those around you as well.”