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Annual UHS-sponsored ‘FluFest’ offers free flu vaccines to University community

<h6>José Pablo Fernández García / The Daily Princetonian</h6>
José Pablo Fernández García / The Daily Princetonian

On Monday Oct. 3, University Health Services (UHS) kicked off its annual ‘FluFest,’ a clinic that provides free seasonal influenza (flu) vaccines to members of the University community, including faculty, staff, students, retirees, and alumni. 

According to several UHS professionals, acquiring a flu vaccine prior to the start of the flu season is paramount to staving off severe illness and preventing a flu outbreak that could jeopardize public health. 

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In an email to The Daily Princetonian, University Global and Community Health physician Dr. Irini Daskalaki emphasized the importance of ensuring that members of the University community get vaccinated against the flu.

“The influenza vaccine (flu shot) is the single most important measure one can take to protect themselves from severe influenza disease and its complications, including hospitalizations, ICU admissions, and death,” Daskalaki wrote.

She also noted that although the influenza vaccine may not completely prevent flu infections, it can reduce the severity of symptoms that may occur.

“While it is true that some people who have received the flu shot may still become infected, studies have shown that flu shot recipients have milder and shorter illnesses when infected with the influenza virus,” Daskalaki wrote.

Daskalaki additionally wrote that the University community experiences the most pronounced effects of the flu season during the spring semester.

“Every year, our University community experiences the annual flu outbreak from January through April or even May, usually with [a] peak in the number of cases during the month of February,” she said.

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According to UHS Vaccine Coordinator Kristen Umyn, acquiring the flu vaccines in time for distribution at the FluFest has been a challenging logistical feat.

“Once the World Health Organization determines which strains should be included in the upcoming season’s formulation, flu vaccine manufacturers get right to work,” wrote Umyn in an email to the ‘Prince.’ “Reserving a supply for the University community is important to ensure we get adequate inventory and in time for flu season to start.” 

Umyn noted that although the influenza vaccine requires a bit of time before it confers immunity, making sure that members of the University community are able to get the vaccine earlier — rather than later — can stave off both the likelihood and extent of flu outbreaks.

“It takes two weeks for the flu vaccine to reach full protection once administered, so although the ‘better late than never’ concept applies through March, our goal is to be situated to stay ahead of the game by offering doses early in the season to keep our population well,” wrote Umyn.

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In an email to the ‘Prince,’ Associate Director of Administration at UHS Claire Perkins wrote that the FluFest relies on the nursing staff at Penn Medicine Princeton Health, a “community partner that is committed to providing exceptional, compassionate care,” to administer vaccines at clinic sites.

Perkins also echoed the sentiments of other UHS officials, highlighting the FluFest’s ability to offer “safe, convenient, and efficient access to flu vaccines at a central campus location.” 

The first day of the FluFest occurred on Oct. 3 from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. in Multipurpose Room B at Frist Campus Center, and the same operating hours will take place on Thursday, Oct. 6 and Monday, Oct. 10. 

All attendees are required to wear face coverings and present their University IDs in order to qualify for their free immunizations.

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

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