Health services emphasizes importance of flu shots during pandemic

The CDC recommends that everyone 6 months of age and older get a flu vaccine every season.

The CDC recommends that everyone 6 months of age and older get a flu vaccine every season.

Getting a flu vaccine could help save important medical resources for COVID patients, according to the CDC. Calvin Health Services is spreading this message about a potentially pivotal flu season to ensure in-person learning continues through the cold winter months. 

Although many Health Services policies have been dramatically impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, the department’s message to Calvin students about the flu vaccine hasn’t changed, according to Barb Mustert, a registered nurse at the Calvin Travel and Immunization Clinic. 

“We have always encouraged all students, faculty and staff to receive the vaccine,” Mustert said. “The vaccine does not necessarily prevent the flu entirely, but does lessen the severity of symptoms if you were to get it, reducing out-of-class time.” 

Calvin students are currently not required to get a flu vaccine, but Health Services recommends that each student receive the vaccine annually. Students traveling abroad with Calvin programs are required to receive the vaccine, though international programs have been temporarily suspended because of the pandemic. 

Many health experts nationally have emphasized the importance of the flu shot this year because of COVID-19. In a student news email sent to students on Oct. 20, Health Services cited a CDC message that warned that flu patients and COVID-19 patients could dangerously tax healthcare systems. 

“Thus they strongly urge all of us to consider getting a flu vaccine as soon as possible to reduce the risk of flu illness, hospitalization, and death and to save healthcare resources for the care of patients with COVID-19,” the post said. 

In past years, Calvin nursing students have participated in the vaccination process at Calvin flu vaccine clinics, but that’s not a possibility this year because of the pandemic, according to nursing professor Dawn Frambes. Nursing students administering the vaccine must be supervised by clinical faculty in addition to the typical Health Services staff members that must be present to facilitate the vaccination process, increasing the number of people present and the likelihood of COVID-19 spread. 

“Based on the requirements to decrease exposure potential for all involved in administering flu vaccine based on the past procedures, it was decided by the Nursing Department that social distancing, density of the number of individuals required for students to administer injections, and the amount of PPE required was not consistent with best practices to protect all members of the community and practice good stewardship of resources to proceed as in the past,” Frambes said. 

Students and faculty hoping to receive the vaccine can still obtain one through Health Services. “Students are able to obtain a flu vaccine, at Health Services, by calling our office at 616-526-6187 to schedule an appointment that works best with their schedule or by watching their Calvin or Student News for flu clinic offerings and signing up through Eventbrite,” said Mustert.