Student health center offers flu vaccinations

The Thielen Student Health Center offers two kinds of flu vaccines: an actual flu shot or a nasal spray, called FluMist.

Leah Hansen

Flu vaccines will be offered on a walk-in basis at the Thielen Student Health Center from 9 to 11:30 a.m. Wednesdays and Saturdays from October to December.

Students are asked to bring their ISUCard when they come. A payment of $20 for the injection or $25 for the nasal spray will be charged to a student’s U-Bill. Some insurance companies will cover part or all of the payment.

It is important for students to get the flu shot as soon as it becomes available to prevent themselves against influenza.

“The earlier you get it, the earlier your immune system responds and gives you better protection,” said Laura Knowles, program coordinator at the health center. “Flu season has been very unpredictable. … Earlier in the game is always better because then you’re somewhat prepared.”

The flu shot or nasal spray, FluMist, takes up to two weeks for the body to build up antibodies against the virus so it is important for students to get vaccinated early in the flu season.

“You do have to wait 10 minutes after the injection,” Knowles said. “Just because you’ll get a little adrenalin rush when you get that injection and sometimes people haven’t eaten or they may not like needles and so sometimes people get a little light headed or feel a little woozy. We always bring crackers and Gatorade, some type of snacks and drinks to the flu clinics.”

The flu shot is given in the upper arm. It is an inactive, or dead, virus that causes the body to build antibodies to fight off influenza in vaccinated patients.

Some common side effects of the flu shot are soreness, redness or swelling at the injection site. Less commonly, patients might experience low fever and muscle aches. All side effects typically last about two days.

FluMist is a flu vaccine that is sprayed into the nose.

“They don’t have to wait 10 minutes with the nasal [spray], so they can bolt,” said Greg Yeakel, chief staff pharmacist at the health center. “Some [students] might consider pain as a reason to take the nasal spray. Some might not like nasal spray and would rather take an injection.”

The FluMist nasal spray can cause a few mild side effects, including runny or congested nose, headache, sore throat, chills, tiredness or weakness, and coughing. Side effects are generally mild and not long-lasting. If a more severe reaction is experienced, patients are advised to call their doctor.

FluMist does contain a live virus, but it is a weakened version that does not cause the flu.

“You’re not going to get full blown flu with the live virus, but you might get that feeling of the first couple days of a cold,” Knowles said. “You might have a little bit of a runny nose or a scratchy throat. That should go away within a couple days, but that’s your body’s response to being assaulted by a virus.”

People who should not get the FluMist include students taking asthma medication, adults over 55 years of age and immune-compromised persons.

“The people that can’t get [the flu vaccine] because of a health condition or an allergy, the more people around them that have had it gives them herd immunity,” Knowles said. “If you’re the one in the middle with the health condition that can’t get the [flu vaccine] but your circle of friends have all gotten it, you’re protected. … We want that to happen to the people who can’t get [the vaccine] for whatever reason.”

When deciding between the FluMist or the injection, it mainly comes down to a matter of preference. Both vaccines are considered to last nine to twelve months.

“From an efficacy stand point they are equal,” Yeakel said. “I will tell you, however, I believe that the nasal spray may work a little quicker. Their immunity might be quicker than the two weeks we expect with the injection.”

The flu brings with it body aches, fever, coughing and also symptoms of the common cold.

“It’s always a tough thing to communicate to people the difference between the stomach flu and true influenza,” Yeakel said. “Influenza is going to make you sick and in bed for a while. … Influenza can lay you out and that’s what we’re trying to prevent.”