UA offers free vaccinations as peak of flu season approaches

Jennifer Johns, Contributing Writer

After being diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin’s Burkitt’s Lymphoma at age 15, Kate Dassenko, a senior majoring in hospitality, knew her life was changed forever. After entering remission five years after her diagnosis, Dassenko’s immune system never fully recovered.

With flu season typically beginning in October or November and continuing until as late as May, The University of Alabama set up stations throughout the semester to provide free vaccinations for students, faculty and staff. Vaccinations benefit not only those who receive them but others around them.

“My immune system will never be as strong as it could have been,” Dassenko said. “Others getting vaccinated helps not only them but people like me.”

Babies, young children, the elderly and people with certain chronic health conditions are more susceptible to serious complications caused by the flu. According to The New York Times, last year’s flu epidemic was the worst seen in years. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated about 80,000 Americans died from flu complications last year, nearly double the usual amount in a “bad” flu season.

The concept of protecting one’s self and others by getting vaccinated is called community immunity, or herd immunity, said Wyndy Looney, director of nursing for the College of Community Health Sciences (CCHS), in an article for The Tuscaloosa News.

According to the CDC, flu activity most commonly peaks in the United States between December and February.

For the 2018-2019 season, manufacturers projected they would provide between 163 million and 168 million doses of injectable vaccines for the U.S. market, and the amount may change as the season progresses, according to the CDC.

The Affordable Care Act required insurers to cover the cost of patients’ flu shots without charging a copay, although some insurers only cover vaccines given by doctors or at certain locations, according to CNBC.

Aaleah Taylor, a senior majoring in nursing, said getting the flu vaccine is important because the flu virus changes every year.

“If you can do something to prevent getting it, you should,” Taylor said.

The CDC suggests getting vaccinated in early fall, usually by the end of October, because it takes about two weeks after vaccination for antibodies that protect against the flu to develop in the body. However, it can still be beneficial to get vaccinated even after that point.

The vaccine is made up of inactivated variations of the common flu types: influenza A (H1N1), influenza A (H3N2) and an influenza B virus. Every year, scientists research what they think will be the most likely strains to circulate in the upcoming year, according to the CDC.

“There’s nothing to be afraid of,” said Jasmyne Williams, a senior majoring in nursing. “If you have any symptoms, they are not serious.”

Aside from getting the flu shot, the CDC recommends taking preventative measures such as avoiding sick people and washing hands frequently. To find out more about the flu virus, go to the CDC’s website at