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Student Health Services encourages flu shots before holidays

Student Health Services is preparing for a harsh flu season this year after a relatively mild season in 2021.

Long Beach State had mostly virtual classes for the 2021 school year because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Social distancing was widely practiced, and people were not contracting the flu.

With more students on campus and fewer people wearing masks, it is even more likely that the flu will spread faster this year.

The CDC reported early increases in flu activity across the United States and a high percentage of influenza on Oct. 14.

The flu clinic has reported administering 306 flu vaccines as of Oct. 18.

During the 2021-2022 school year, the clinic reported administering 691 vaccines, most of which were offered in the fall semester of 2021. However, it is just a small fraction of the over 38,000 students at CSULB.

The clinic aims to double last year’s flu vaccine numbers with multiple flu clinics being held around campus. They are already seeing students taking charge of their health by getting their flu vaccine.

Heidi Girling, the coordinator of wellness and health promotion, recommended getting the flu vaccine before upcoming holiday gatherings, as the flu can spread when people are in close quarters.

The Student Health Center faced some setbacks during the pandemic because many students were unaware of the services offered. Girling reached out to students online informing them about the Student Health Center’s services, which was less impactful than doing it in person.

“I think when everything was online [the center’s services] just went over people’s heads, we missed a lot of people in the last couple of years,” said Girling. “Now, because we had such good exposure at orientations, I think it’s going well.”

Historically, college students have not been proactive in getting their flu shots. In 2016 the National Foundation for Infectious Disease reported that only 46% of college students said they got the flu vaccine.

After facing two years of COVID-19, college students are taking their health more seriously. The CDC reported that there had been a national increase in people over the age of 18 receiving the flu vaccine.

Even though the turnout for flu vaccines is increasing, some universities have taken extra steps to ensure students and faculty are vaccinated against the flu.

The UC system mandated that all students, faculty, and staff received the flu vaccine in 2021. This mandate was the first for the flu vaccine, as universities had never required it.

The UC system claimed that this executive order from UC President Michael V. Drake was intended to stop the spread of the coronavirus in hopes that requiring a flu vaccine would prevent the UC community from getting any other illnesses.

CSUs, including Long Beach State, do not require a flu vaccine, but they are strongly recommended. With the high turnout at the university’s flu vaccination clinic, the university is not expected to adopt a flu vaccine mandate.

“It has to come from the chancellor’s office for us to do something like that and I don’t think they are going to do that,” Girling said.

As for the university’s COVID vaccine clinic, Girling said they are still awaiting the shipment of booster shots and are relying on the Long Beach Public Health Vaccine Clinic to help make COVID vaccines readily available to students.

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