Low interest in flu shots worries health experts


Published: Wednesday, January 24, 2007 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, January 24, 2007 at 1:35 a.m.
After a shortage of the flu vaccine in the fall, the University of Florida is now flush with the stuff.
But no one seems to want it.
"Lack of media attention is the biggest reason numbers have dropped," said Jane Cullen, associate director of nursing.
"The good news is we haven't had high flu numbers so far."
In October, UF announced a shortage of the flu vaccine. UF placed a hold on its annual Influenza Prevention Campaign and canceled all of its scheduled clinics.
Now, months later, the university has a full supply but no demand even though students just getting back from winter break are at high risk of getting the contagious disease.
The national flu shot campaign starts in August. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, vaccines are given in September to allow time for individuals to develop the antibody to protect them during the flu season.
As time goes by, there is less of a media push and the flu shot finds its way to the bottom of people's to-do lists.
"Until it gets back in the media, interest will continue to go down," Cullen said.
It's predicted that UF will lose money on the vaccine this year, but that's not what worries health officials.
"Many students have been busy traveling, partying and going out," said Diann Clark with the Student Health Care Clinic. "They've worn themselves out and lowered their immune systems."
Furthermore, students and faculty are at high risk on the UF campus due to crowded conditions in classrooms and dormitories.
"One student coughs in a class of 250," Cullen said, "and every person in that class, including the professor, is put at risk."
Media attention is expected to rise as influenza cases increase. Cullen said she hopes it won't be too late.
The vaccine only prevents the flu, she said, but it can't cure it. It's important for individuals to take precautions now.
The university has no plans to actively promote the shot due to lack of interest.
Advertising undergraduate Sean Solomon, 21, still feels that it's important that both students and faculty get the vaccine. "I get the flu shot every year," Solomon said.
According to Solomon, there is little paperwork and the process is a quick five to 10 minutes. He said there's only a minor soreness in his arm a couple of hours later.
"I'd rather have a slightly sore arm than be sick," Solomon said. "It's a good trade-off."
Still others don't get the shot for reasons such as fear of needles or because they are disappointed it doesn't prevent "flu-like" illnesses, Cullen said.
Sandra Storr, a program assistant in the College of Journalism and Communications, said she doesn't get the vaccine because it is made with a dead strand of the virus.
"I personally don't feel comfortable with the fact that they inject you with the disease to prevent you from getting the disease," Storr said.

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