Written By: Angelie Roche
On Oct. 7, 9 and 13, the St. Mary’s College of Maryland (SMCM) Wellness Center provided free flu shots for all students, faculty and staff at the Aldom Lounge. Students were able to reserve a timeslot online beforehand in an effort to adhere to social distancing protocols. In addition, upon entering the Lounge, recipients were asked to procure their SMCM ID and Daily Symptom Check. According to Laurie Scherer, director of the Wellness Center, over 400 members of the St. Mary’s community signed up to receive shots during those dates. This number is approximated, though, because the Wellness Center also allowed people who had not signed up to walk in and request shots.
Getting a flu shot each year is the best way to reduce the risk of contracting influenza, a virus which shares many symptoms with the novel coronavirus, according to Penn Medicine. Both are respiratory diseases which can present in a variety of ways, ranging from asymptomatic or mild to extremely deadly. They are also both transmitted through respiratory droplets. The key difference is that influenza has a lower incubation period, meaning it can spread faster, but the coronavirus’ reproductive number and mortality rates are both higher.
With COVID-19 going around, students may think that it is not as important to protect themselves against the flu, but this is not the case: while getting the flu vaccine will not prevent COVID-19, it could save valuable medical resources that are in short supply. Additionally, contracting influenza still carries the risk of hospitalization and death; though that risk is low, it is better to be safe than sorry. Receiving a flu shot protects not only one’s own health but the health of others, and SMCM’s Wellness staff is doing its best to make the process as simple as possible.
When a student or staff member arrived at the Aldom Lounge to receive their shot, they were each handed a pen and clipboard with one page of information to fill out. In order to guard against COVID, each clipboard was sanitized afterward and pens were not reused. Afterwards, Wellness staff provided some information about the vaccine and then gave the shot —a process which altogether took no more than 5 minutes for most people. According to Freshman Niamh Connell, who went on Oct. 13, the procedure was surprisingly easy, and “everyone did what they could to ensure COVID guidelines were being followed.” The best thing, she said, was its convenience — students did not have to fill out any insurance or unnecessary personal information, making the process quick and efficient. Finally, a major benefit was that the shots were free, making them accessible to all SMCM students who wanted to do their part to help the community.