By Sean Leonard
Student Health Services hosted its first on-campus flu vaccination clinic of the season on Sept. 29, administering 31 vaccinations between 10 a.m. and noon. The remaining two clinics will occur on Oct. 15 and Oct. 29 from 2 to 4 p.m. on the patio of the Brower Student Center, or in Room 100 West should there be inclement weather.
According to Janice Vermeychuk, the director of Student Health Services, individuals must practice Covid-19 safety measures by wearing a face covering and presenting their daily health pass through the ROAR app prior to attending the vaccination clinic.
The cost for vaccination is $20, except for students currently enrolled in the College’s Student Health Insurance Plan. According to Student Health Services advanced practice nurse, Barbara Clark, if students do not go to the on-campus clinic, it is recommended that they still receive their flu vaccination from a pharmacy, primary care physician or other clinics.
“People can get the flu vaccine anywhere these days. You can go to CVS, the pharmacy, or the grocery store. I see available flu shots anywhere. It doesn’t matter to us where the students get their flu shots as long as they get one,” Clark said.
Students can also get their vaccine in the Student Health Services office Monday through Friday by setting up an appointment through the Online Wellness Link (OWL), according to family nurse practitioner Holly Heller in a video speaking to the College.
After they receive their flu shot, Clark said students should participate in the New Jersey College and University Flu Challenge by filling out a survey.
This flu season marks the fourth year of the challenge started by the New Jersey Department of Health. The College was the winner of the challenge for the 2019-2020 and 2018-2019 academic years by having the highest percentage of students vaccinated against influenza, which was 4.14 percent and 10.79 percent, respectively.
According to Clark, it is especially important to receive a flu vaccine this year to prevent a flu epidemic during the Covid-19 pandemic, which is already responsible for over 200,000 U.S. deaths, according to the CDC.
“When you get a flu shot, what you’re doing is you’re taking the burden off the healthcare community,” Clark said. “Hopefully having fewer people sick with the flu (and) putting the focus on people who do need care because of Covid.”
For those reluctant to visit the doctor’s office due to the ongoing risk of Covid-19, Clark said healthcare visits are acceptable because of new safety precautions put in place along with personal protective equipment (PPE) required by workers. Clark also added that telemedicine has eased the process for office visits.
“I think the precautions people have put into place are quite amazing,” Clark said. “The amount of PPE that I now have to wear in my daily job here is incredible. You can get the bulk of that visit done online, and then minimize the time that person has to physically be inside your office.”
Other apprehensions toward vaccination do not seem to be common in the college population. According to the results of the New Jersey College & University Flu Challenge, “I have no time” was the most common student response for not receiving the flu vaccination.
Clark said that it is also especially important for people to get their regular checkups, especially for children who need other vaccinations.
“The medical world is very concerned about people falling off the grid for any vaccination, including kids,” Clark said. “We don’t need a measles outbreak on top of all of this going on. We definitely need people to keep up on those routine vaccinations.”
In addition to the flu shot, Clark said students should continue practicing measures to prevent the spread of all respiratory pathogens, like hand washing, covering your cough or sneeze, avoiding touching your mouth or nose and staying away from others when feeling sick.
“Daily completion of the TCNJ ROAR Self-Checkup app is a great way to monitor yourself for symptoms of illness or risk and to make appropriate daily decisions on whether or not to leave your home to be around others,” Clark said.