Health center prepares for flu season


This week, eligible Iowa State faculty and staff have the opportunity to receive free flu shots through ISU WellBeing and Occupational Medicine, who sponsor the flu shot clinic for the university.

Greg Zwiers

In preparation for the coming flu season, the Thielen Student Health Center has begun offering flu shots. 

Staff have set 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesdays and 8 a.m. to noon Saturdays for walk-in appointments.

The vaccine in the nasal mist form costs $30, and the vaccine injection costs $25. This year the mist vaccine protects against four strains of influenza, and the injection protects against three strains.

Students can have the vaccine charged to their U-Bill account, as well as filing paperwork with students’ insurance. Students do not have to pay anything upfront.

“It takes two weeks to get full immunity from the injection, perhaps a little less with the nasal mist,” said Greg Yeakel, chief staff pharmacist at the health center. “The mist is a live, compromised virus, and the injection is a dead virus. … I would encourage [students] to get it earlier, rather than later.”

Because the mist contains a live virus, patients may experience a few symptoms of the flu, such as a runny nose, a scratchy throat and body aches. Even though people might show symptoms, they will not get the flu because the virus has been weakened significantly.

“It does sometimes cause you to feel a little achy, but that’s because your body is mounting an immune response,” said Laura Knowles, nursing and patient services supervisor at the health center.

The flu vaccine used to be given out in October because the belief was that it worked for six months, but there have been many studies that show the vaccine is good for a year, Yeakel said. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention now recommends getting the flu vaccine as soon as it becomes available.

Yeakel believes Iowa State could start seeing the flu as early as October. 

“If you’re going to be around babies or old people, they are much more susceptible; flu can kill them,” Knowles said. “Young adults who get the flu can be stuck in bed for up to two weeks.” 

People who have an egg allergy or a suppressed immune system are unable to get a flu vaccine. Knowles said it is important to get the vaccine to protect the people who can’t as well as babies and the elderly.

“All the pharmacy students now go through an immunization class, so that they can give immunizations,” Knowles said.  The pharmacy department also has a consultation room they can use to give flu shots.

The health center is planning on setting up stations at the Lied Recreation Athletic Center and at State Gym so students can get the vaccine when they are leaving, but those dates have not been set.  Knowles also hopes to have staff at the Study Abroad Fair on Thursday, Sept. 19.

Knowles said the health center orders vaccines from multiple sources to keep from running out, but the orders are staggered. 

“We have about 1,000 doses on hand, and it’s readily available, so we have adequate supplies,” Yeakel said. “It looks like there won’t be a shortage this year.”