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As flu season nears, UHS offers vaccinations at 2021 FluFest

<h5>FluFest 2021 Poster</h5>
<h6>Courtesy of the Office of Communications</h6>
FluFest 2021 Poster
Courtesy of the Office of Communications

Students, faculty, staff, retirees, and University affiliates are eligible to receive free flu vaccines during the 2021 FluFest, an event sponsored by University Health Services (UHS) that aims to administer as many influenza vaccines as possible to keep the University community healthy during the upcoming flu season.

This year’s FluFest will be held from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Oct. 5, Oct. 6, Oct. 12, and Oct. 13 in the Frist Campus Center Multipurpose Rooms on the B Level. Those attending the FluFest must present their University ID cards and wear face coverings. Appointments will not be required.

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Dependent children of University faculty aged 12 and older who have been vaccinated for COVID-19 and are in compliance with the University visitor policy will be able to receive flu vaccines during the clinic. The high-dose flu vaccine geared toward older adults will not be available at the FluFest, though the UHS website discourages “delaying flu immunization to acquire the specialized flu shot.” 

In an interview with The Daily Princetonian, UHS Global and Community Health Physician Dr. Irini Daskalaki urged the University community to take advantage of the opportunity to receive free influenza vaccines offered at the FluFest.

“A flu shot is the main and major way of preventing the influenza disease in adults and children, especially during this time of the year,” Daskalaki said.

Particularly in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, Daskalaki noted that receiving an influenza vaccine can ease the burden on healthcare workers who would need to distinguish between cases of the flu and COVID-19.

“There is no very good way of differentiating clinically, as we say, by just looking at the patient, whether they have the flu or COVID or another respiratory disease,” Daskalaki explained. “The only way to know for sure is to actually do a test. The tests are a limited resource that we need to be saving for when we really need them.”

Furthermore, Daskalaki noted that the flu virus morphs rapidly into new variants every year. She said that getting vaccinated against the flu is even more important in light of its constantly changing nature.

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On a related note, Daskalaki emphasized the safety and efficacy of both the flu vaccine and COVID-19 vaccine in serving as robust means of defense against the respective diseases.

“The vaccines themselves are very safe and well-studied,” Daskalaki said.

Over the past few weeks, following a surge in mild cold-like illnesses on campus, UHS’s Outpatient Medical Services and the Infirmary Service received more than 1,200 students seeking in-person health evaluations. Speaking on this matter, Daskalaki stressed that the spread of cold-like illnesses reflects a normal trend observed during the start of every academic year.

“This time of the year, the respiratory season starts,” she said. “They all have different names, but in adults, they mainly do the same thing, causing common colds, with some differences: some do more congestion, some do sore throats. I haven’t seen this year on campus anything different or unexpected from other fall semesters.”

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Despite vaccines not conferring absolute immunity, Daskalaki asserted that vaccines significantly reduce the severity of symptoms and transmission rate of respiratory illnesses in vaccinated individuals who contract such illnesses.

“In the large, healthy and young population on campus, [a vaccine] does prevent many infections, to begin with, but even if somebody gets the flu despite the fact that they got the vaccine, they’re going to have less symptoms and a shorter duration of symptoms,” she said.

Henry Slater ’22 plans to go to the FluFest, like he has done every other year he has been on campus.

“I just think it’s important every year, but there’s a higher chance of things getting around in the winter when everyone’s inside because it’s cold outside, so I think getting vaccinated is good,” he said.

Slater explained that getting the flu shot now is especially crucial due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It’s easy to feel like I’ve accomplished something, sort of like a sense of civic duty even, especially now with public health more on my mind,” he continued.

Amy Ciceu is a staff writer who often covers research and COVID-19-related developments. She also serves as a Newsletter Contributor. She can be reached at aciceu@princeton.edu.

Associate News Editor Naomi Hess contributed reporting.

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