This semester, Health Services is offering students free flu shots for the first time.

Flu season usually peaks between December and February, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It is recommended to get vaccinated by the end of October.

This semester alone, students have received the same number of flu shots from Health Services as the average yearly total, said Dr. Angela Middleton, UTA Health Services director. The count is more than 1,140.

Middleton said the department reallocated funds to provide free flu shots this semester after noticing other universities doing the same thing.

“We wanted to give back to the students because they’re the ones that pay for Health Services to be here,” she said.

Students can walk into the Immunization Clinic located on the second floor of the Health Center to receive a flu shot without an appointment. Wait times vary, but the quickest times tend to be in the morning, she said.

The influenza virus mutates rapidly, making it necessary to get a new flu vaccine every year, Middleton said.

According to the CDC, recent studies show the flu vaccination reduces the risk of flu illness by between 40% and 60% among the overall population when the vaccine is correctly matched to the highest-circulating virus.

It’s especially important for college students to get the vaccine to avoid impacting their GPAs, Middleton said.

“If you get the flu as a college student, you may miss a week or more of class,” she said, “You’re at home in bed not doing anything.”

Biochemistry junior Ruben Gonzalez went to Las Vegas for a New Years’ getaway but spent all three days sick with the flu.

This experience motivated Gonzalez to get his first-ever flu shot at the Health Center this semester.

It’s more important as a college student because of the number of people they’re around every day, he said.

“It was convenient because I was already at school,” Gonzalez said.

Latoya Oduniyi, Health Services assistant director, said many people wait until December or January, during the height of the flu season, to get their shot. But getting it now can help protect them before it’s so widespread.

The flu shot can also reduce the severity of the illness if they do contract the virus, Oduniyi said. This can help people recover quicker and miss less work or school.

“Ultimately, the end goal is, 'What way can we help students stay in the classroom and be healthy enough to study and be successful?'” she said.

@reeseoxner

news-editor.shorthorn@uta.edu

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