Get a clue, avoid the flu: Responsible students get vaccinated

Gwen Henry | Cartoonist

By The Editorial Board

We’ve made it to October, and with that milestone comes the cultural phenomenon that is “spooky season.” But you know what’s spookier than ghosts and ghouls? The flu.

According to the Food and Drug Administration, there were between 27 million and 54 million flu cases in the United States last season, resulting in between 19,000 and 58,000 flu-related deaths.

We know what you’re thinking: “There’s no way I’ll be in those unlucky batches of people!”

We regret to inform you that there is, in fact, a way.

College campuses, especially residence halls, provide the breeding grounds for a host of illnesses, from the common cold and strep throat to the flu and COVID-19. Because these are respiratory illnesses that spread via tiny droplets when infected people cough, sneeze or talk, living in such close proximity puts students at high risk. It’s no secret that such illnesses are already circulating this semester.

But fear not. There is a solution.

Flu shots.

We get it: Nobody likes shots. But just because you don’t enjoy something doesn’t mean you can or should forego it. Think of getting a flu shot like going to the dentist or getting a car inspection. Nobody likes those either. But as students, we are at the age where we have to begin taking care of ourselves and handling these types of affairs independently — and the most basic level of that is tending to our physical well-being.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “the first and most important step in preventing flu is to get a flu vaccine each year.” Flu shots, which are developed every year to target the most common strains, reduce not only the likelihood of contracting the flu but also the risk of having serious complications. Preliminary data estimates that last season, people who got a flu shot were between 40% and 70% less likely to be hospitalized.

If you currently feel like an invincible teen or 20-something who will not be afflicted, take this as an opportunity to practice humility. Even if the likelihood is small, young adults die from the flu every year. And even if you won’t have that fate, you can still unfortunately spread it to higher-risk people who might.

According to the CDC, September and October are the best times to get a flu shot because it takes about two weeks to develop antibodies and immunity after being vaccinated. While the timing and duration of flu season changes from year to year, cases typically begin to rise this month and peak between December and February. Of course, following last season’s early start and uncharacteristically high numbers — marking the most severe season in over a decade — there’s no telling what this season could hold.

So, scrap the excuses. No, the flu shot doesn’t infect you with an active virus. And no, just because you happened to get the flu after getting the flu shot when you were 11 years old doesn’t mean it’s completely ineffective. A lot of myths circulate on the topic. Don’t jump on the uninformed bandwagon just because it gives you a one-way ticket away from a needle.

Getting a flu shot is quick, easy and typically free. Baylor’s Health Center is currently offering flu shots that are fully covered by most insurance plans. Students can make an appointment online before or call the morning of. While it has not scheduled dates yet, the Health Center will be hosting a flu shot clinic as well.

CVS and Walgreens also have flu shots that are fully covered by most insurance plans. For those who are not covered, the standard quadrivalent vaccine is $62.99 at CVS and $42.49 at Walgreens.

The flu is a nasty disease, whether your particular symptoms are life-threatening or not, so don’t let it creep up on you. It loves to hit students in the heat of finals season or at the very beginning of the spring semester — which we can safely say are the most inopportune times. It’s better to be safe than sorry.

So, roll up your sleeve, put on your bravest face and cross your fingers that you’ll get a cool Band-Aid in the process. Future you will be thankful for it.