Nursing students to give vaccines
Along with pumpkin spice lattes and sweaters, fall also brings flu season. The nursing department is preparing the student body with the Bison Herd Immunity campaign and a vaccination day in the student center on Oct. 8.
Lisa Engel, assistant professor of nursing, is focusing her doctoral research on flu vaccine rates in college students at Harding.
This semester, Engel began the Bison Herd Immunity campaign, which can be seen around campus on posters and on their Instagram @bisonherdimmunity. The campaign is funded through a grant from the Arkansas Immunization Action Coalition in partnership with Arkansas Blue Cross Blue Shield.
“I had to research something having to do with population health, and I teach, so my population is students,” Engel said. “I saw everyone getting the flu last year and looked into it and realized [low vaccine rates for college students] is a nationwide problem.”
According to Rhonda Davis, director of Student Health Services, their office had 150 reported cases of the flu just last year.
Engel said students in residence halls are more at risk for the flu than they realize, because they live in such close quarters and share their space with so many people.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that 70 percent of the population be vaccinated; however, the rate of vaccination in college students is usually between 8-39 percent.
“Harding does not keep statistics of students who receive the flu vaccine,” Engel said. “Not a lot of students get the vaccine on campus.”
She said this makes the statistic difficult to track.
The Bison Herd Immunity group will be hosting a vaccination day on Oct. 8 from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. in the student center, where students can get their flu vaccines along with more information on the flu and a Bison Herd Immunity button.
The goal of vaccination day and the campaign as a whole, is to educate college students about vaccines and about how severe the flu can be to the community without the vaccination.
Students have the opportunity to be vaccinated that day in the student center and Monday through Friday in the Student Health Services office from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
“We are happy to offer flu shots to students here in the Student Health Center at less than half the cost of retail,” Davis said. “Flu shots in our office are available to students for $20, compared with $40.99 in the local retail market.”
Engel said students need to remember their flu shots and basic hygiene like hand-washing to avoid the flu this season.
Seniors Erika Meranda and Victoria Ervin are working with Engel on her doctoral research as a part of their nursing capstone class. They will help administer the vaccination shots in the student center along with other nursing students and professors.
According to Meranda, students can bring proof of insurance when they come for their vaccination. Additionally, students who receive the vaccination can take a survey afterward for the chance to win a prize.
“No one wants to put $20 toward their health, but in the long run, it’s $20 toward your health,” Meranda said. “It’s $20 for your wellbeing and staying in school.”
The flu shot is important because the vaccination contains three to four strains, so people are more protected with the flu shot than without it, according to Ervin.
“If you get sick with the flu shot, it’s probably just a different strain that is not protected in the flu vaccination,” Ervin said. “With that being said, you’re going to have less severe symptoms, and you’re going to have less time of being sick.”