A shipment of 600 H1N1 flu shots was delivered to Cal State Fullerton’s Student Health and Counseling Center Wednesday from the County of Orange.
A free clinic will be held this Wednesday, one day only, in the Titan Student Union’s Pavilion C from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Doses will be administered on a first-come, first-serve basis to qualifying students with a valid TitanCard for no charge.
“Most of our students are eligible to receive the vaccine,” SHCC Associate Director Kathy Spofford said.
Due to a widespread shortage of the new flu shot, students interested in receiving a free dose on Wednesday must fit into at least one of the target groups prescribed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Because of the atypical demographic being affected, those between 6 months and 24 years of age are a main priority for inoculation.
“The mortality rate of H1N1 is actually lower than the seasonal flu, but many of the people dying from it are young and healthy, which is the concern,” Spofford said.
Because of a related “swine flu” in the 1930s and ’40s, those born as late as the 1950s are likely to carry antibodies for the flu already. This explains why this 2009 – 2010 flu seems to target only the younger generations.
“For once, there is a health advantage to being old!” Spofford said.
Other priority groups outside of the age range include students who are pregnant or caring for a child 6 months or younger and students with underlying medical conditions, like asthma or diabetes, that could result in influenza-related complications including death.
The SHCC placed the order earlier this semester and had been patiently awaiting the arrival of the deactivated virus. Chief Staff Physician Dr. Richard Boucher received the call last Monday that the order was partially filled and 600 of the requested 10,000 H1N1 vaccine would be supplied for no cost, courtesy of the U.S. federal government. Spofford said the government is providing the free vaccine in attempt to help contain the worldwide pandemic. President Obama declared a national state of emergency in the wake of the new strain’s “rapid increase of illness” in late October.
Spofford is hopeful a second shipment of vaccine will arrive and could even be received during CSUF’s winter break. In effort to make the vaccine available to as many students as possible, a second clinic would be arranged for early in the spring semester.
The vaccine arrived with only one week left for CSUF’s fall semester, just in time for the SHCC to organize the immunization clinic before winter break.
The SHCC has been working in conjunction with several other campus entities to organize and successfully execute the event. Student volunteers, members of the Health Science Inter Club Council, Student Heath Advisory Committee and Health Science honor society, Eta Sigma Gamma, will be assisting with check-in and working where they’re needed in non-medical positions.
Students of the nursing department on campus, however, will take a much more hands-on approach as they will be the primary vaccinators of the clinic.
“A lot of our students are already registered nurses, but an M.D. (medical doctor) will be on-site all day and our head nurse will be there to assist as well,” Spofford said.
There are nursing students within the program who are already licensed as well as those who have worked only in a training setting.
Registered nurse Barbara Doyer, the nursing program’s skills lab coordinator in the pre-licensure program works with many of the students who will be volunteering their time to the clinic and said she is confident in their ability.
“The students have all passed competency tests and there will be faculty overseeing them,” Doyer said in the lab full of lifelike mannequins and real medical equipment, including syringes and liquid vaccine supplies.
Included with the attending SHCC staff, health educator Mary Becerra said she will be at the clinic to educate students about ways to avoid the flu as well as coping methods that can help if a student does fall ill over break.
One suggestion Becerra does make a point of: if you do get the flu, stay home. She says there is little to nothing a doctor can do for you and by leaving the house, an ill person risks infecting anyone within coughing range of them.
“Most students’ immune systems will easily fight this off in a few days,” she said, and suggests lots of rest and fluids.
The symptoms are nearly identical to those of the seasonal flu and the treatment is also “exactly the same,” the health educator said.
Preventive care to ward off illness can be found not only by vaccination, but also in frequent hand washing, cough covering and keeping hands away from key entry points for germs: eyes, nose and mouth.
The biggest protection is to be immunized. The vaccine is a deactivated, dead virus that the body recognizes and creates proper antibodies for.
“You cannot get H1N1 from the vaccine,” Becerra reassured students.
Although the H1N1 shot is made exactly the same way as the seasonal flu shot, they are designed for two different illnesses and both must be administered for full protection this year.
Although the clinic is scheduled to last for six hours, Wednesday’s supply “depends upon the interest of the students, really,” Spofford said. “I would hope, on a campus as large as ours, 600 would go very quickly.”
Becerra hypothesized “I think if we had more residents on campus, the shots would probably go a lot faster,” about the commuter nature of the campus. “What’s important is that students know this is a one-day clinic. They should be coming on campus for this even if they don’t have class on Wednesday,” the health educator stressed.
One student who plans on getting the shot is senior Lizzi Lyv. The anthropology major has not had the H1N1 flu or shot yet this season, leaving her body with no defensive antibodies to fight against the new strain.
“I will definitely go and take advantage of this because I haven’t gotten my shot yet, and it’s pretty awesome that it’s free – you can’t get that opportunity everywhere around the world. In some places, you can’t get the vaccine at all,” said Lyv. At 22 years of age, the anthropology major is in the high-risk age bracket.
The Orange County Healthcare Agency’s weekly report on Dec. 11 said that the pandemic claimed four lives just within the county last week, adding to a running total of 44 OC victims since the flu was discovered in April.
“Some students may feel the threat of H1N1 has passed, but we expect it to be active again next semester,” Becerra said.
The unpredictable H1N1 was unleashed in spring and gained strength throughout the summer and fall.
“Weather has nothing to do with it. That is a myth,” Becerra said of any influenza, but advises students that this time of year can encourage illness.
Becerra said the immune system can become compromised around the holiday season because students are not only stressed for finals, but are likely attending parties and other crowded social gatherings and spending hours in high-traffic shopping malls.
Because the CDC warns that the virus can be spread at a distance of 10 feet, students are even more susceptible by being exposed to thousands of H1N1 candidates every day at school in relatively small classrooms, elevators and buses or parking lot shuttles.
“I’ll go because it’s convenient for me and it’s free. I think it’s always good to get an immunity boost. I haven’t had the flu yet this year and I hope I don’t get it anytime soon.” said business major Katie Nguyen, 20.
Nguyen has heard that “It might just seem like the flu, but then you can get seriously ill if you don’t do anything about it.”
More information about Wednesday’s clinic can be found on the SHCC Web site at http://www.Fullerton.edu/SHCC/H1N1ImmunClinic.htm.
Are You Eligible to Accept the Vaccine?
CDC prescribed target groups:
+All students up to age 24
+ Students older than 24 with preexisting medical conditions (those that are chronic or compromise the immune system)
+ Students who live with or care for children younger than 6 months old
+ Pregnant students (must have a doctor recommendation)
When to Avoid the Shot:
-You had the H1N1 flu this year,
-You received the H1N1 vaccination
-If you’re allergic to eggs, please note that the vaccine production is aided by raw chicken eggs and should not be administered.
-If you were born in the 1950s or earlier, it is likely that you already have the antibodies from a related “swine flu” from the 1930s and 1940s.