College students are less likely to get the flu shot, experts say



It’s flu-shot season again. (Richard B. Levine/Levine Roberts/Newscom/Zuma Press/TNS)

Starlight Williams

College students may feel like Superman, but they are finding their kryptonite with the flu.

According to a report done by the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases, under 40 percent of US college students get the flu shot.

Laura McCormick, primary care physician at Ochsner Health System, said that college students have a “it won’t happen to me” mentality, which is one of the main reasons why students don’t get the vaccine.

“In comparative to the general population college students are healthier,” McCormick said. “When you are otherwise healthy, it is not really a priority when you aren’t sick to go to the doctor for something.”

Jasmine Merlette, an Xavier University student, said that the only time she felt the urge to get the flu shot was when she had the flu.

“I had an uncontrollable nosebleed and went to the ER, when I got there they took my temperature four times and wouldn’t tell me what it was,” Merlette said. “They were in disbelief. They told me I was highly contagious, gave me a mask and I was quarantined until further notice.”

However, even though Merlette has had the flu, she said that she still would not get the vaccine in the near future.

“I have never had a flu shot because of how my mother raised us regarding vaccines. We only got the ones necessary to go to school. My mother is more like a holistic medicine person and believes in keeping us healthy instead of taking medicines,” Merlette said.

With the number of college students getting the flu shot under 40 percent, the infectious disease foundation said college students aren’t meeting the American College Health Association’s Healthy Campus 2020 target goal of 50 percent.

This is one of the reasons why McCormick advises students not willing to take the shot to take precautions to stay healthy.

“It is still advised to consider getting the flu shot, but if you decide against it avoid high risk areas for flu transmission. Meaning wearing a mask, coughing into to your elbow, washing your hands,” McCormick said. “If you get the flu, we recommend that people should be fever free off of all medication for at least 24 hours before they go back to class or go around other people. That means you can’t be on Motrin or Tylenol to suppress your fever.”

For Merlette, she said that she is willing to take her chances.

“The only thing that would change my mind would be the memory of my having the flu, which was not fun at all and very painful,” Merlette said.