The best shot at health

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“Hit me with your best shot” is more than a rock song for college students this winter.

Vaccinations have become significant as Princeton University seeks foreign vaccinations to forestall a possible meningitis outbreak after several cases of the illness appeared on its campus in mid-November.

Pharmacist Nate Christian gives 10-20 flu shots a day during the fall season and vaccinates many BYU students. Photo by Lucy Schouten.
Pharmacist Nate Christian gives 10-20 flu shots a day during the fall season and vaccinates many BYU students. Photo by Lucy Schouten.

A higher percentage of BYU students are immunized than the average college campus because return missionaries are well-vaccinated, said Carol Osban, the immunization nurse at the health center. The health center gave every missionary at the Missionary Training Center a flu shot this fall, but all other vaccines are also available to BYU students and their spouses.Willmore has not heard of any cases of meningitis in the Provo area, but he said an official letter to all incoming freshmen advises them to get two vaccinations: one against meningitis and also one against T-DAP, which protects patients from whooping cough.

“I can’t think of a vaccine we don’t offer that is recommended by the CDC,” Osban said.

In addition to recommending the basic package, the health center has worked to increase the number of students getting the yearly flu shot with a campaign that started in Fall 2012. Willmore said the simple shot, available free of charge to students with the Student Health Plan, is easier than getting the flu.

“You’re going to be sick for a week,” he said. “You’re going to wish you had the flu shot.”

The danger is even greater for students who have children at home. The flu can be life-threatening for infants, and Willmore said 200 children die of the flu every year in the U.S. The same  goes for whooping cough.

The flu seasons tend to vary by year, alternating between severe and mild as people are made aware and then forget to get immunized. If that trend is still going, the 2013–2014 season could be a bad one, which is why the Health Center has been advertising the flu shot. Willmore said even students with private insurance can usually find flu shots at little or no cost at RiteAid, Walgreens or other local pharmacies.

RiteAid pharmacist Nate Christian gives 10–20 flu shots a day to both BYU students and Provo residents.

“Anything you can do to protect yourself from getting sick, you might as well do it,” Christian said. “Whether it’s taking vitamin C, getting a flu shot or running 10 miles a day.”

Resources are available around BYU to handle the worst diseases with the “best shots,” and Willmore hopes the university will keep its untarnished medical reputation.

“We’ve never had a case (of meningitis) here,” he said. “And I hope we never do.”

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