Flu shots in ample quantity at Searle

Janette Neuwahl and Janette Neuwahl

Hoping to avoid catching another case of the flu from neighbors in his dorm hallway, McCormick sophomore Jack Zhu made sure to get an influenza vaccine as soon as it was available this year.

“I got sick last year and I know a good portion of the dorm gets sick during flu season,” Zhu said. “Hopefully getting the shot will prevent me from getting the flu this year.”

For the past two years, Northwestern has experienced problems stocking adequate supplies of the the influenza vaccine because of production delays. But this year the problems are not as bad and the complete supply will be available at Searle Student Health Service by December.

Patti Lubin, Searle health educator, said although students had to wait for vaccinations last year, Searle has not had a problem accommodating demand so far this season.

“Last year we vaccinated 2,000 to 3,000 students and staff,” Lubin said. “My guess is they will give at least as many this year.”

NU students can walk into Searle and be vaccinated on weekdays from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. for $9. Shots for staff members cost $14.

The Illinois Department of Public Health urges “high risk” individuals, including the elderly and people with weak immune systems, to be vaccinated first, in order to prevent a shortage. Flu season usually runs from November to April in the United States, afflicting 10 percent to 20 percent of the population.

In October, 60 percent of the vaccines, or more than 47 million doses, were distributed across the country, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Thirty percent will be sent to health providers across Illinois in November and the final 10 percent of the vaccines will be sent in December.

The CDC recommends that people receive influenza vaccinations once a year, usually in October or November.

Each summer, doctors discuss which strain of influenza they predict will affect the population most heavily, based on the previous year’s results. They then form an injection to prevent the virus from spreading and possibly hospitalizing people in the coming year. That information is given to drug companies that mass-produce the vaccine.

“This year’s vaccine protects people from strains A/New Caledonia, A/Moscow and B/Sichuan,” Lubin said.

Zhu said his experience at Searle was quick, and his arm was not sore from the injection for longer than a day.

According to the Illinois Department of Public Health Web site, the influenza vaccine causes no side effects in most people.

Fewer than one-third of those who get flu shots have some soreness after vaccination and about 5 percent to 10 percent experience mild side effects such as headaches or low-grade fever for about a day after getting the shot.

It takes about two weeks for the immunization to take effect, and people who are sick or have a fever should wait to be vaccinated. Also, people allergic to eggs or who have a history of Guillain-Barr