December 14, 2009

H1N1 vaccine available to campus community

by Christi Mathis

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- Members of the Southern Illinois University Carbondale campus community can take advantage of an H1N1 flu virus vaccination clinic on Tuesday, Dec. 15, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. in the Student Health Center’s Room 111/112.

The clinic is for all SIUC students, faculty and staff and the vaccine is free of charge. Just bring your student or staff identification. The Illinois Department of Public Health has lifted the restrictions that previously limited the vaccine to first priority groups thought to be at higher risk.

“Due to limited supplies, Illinois state health officials had previously only offered the vaccine to priority groups including children, college students, people with chronic illnesses and pregnant women. The success of the targeted vaccination effort now allows us to extend the distribution of the vaccine to healthy adults on campus,” said Dr. Ted Grace, director of the Student Health Center.

Grace notes that while the number of new cases of H1N1 are reportedly declining locally and statewide, there is no way to predict what will happen in the future with the virus. He is encouraging people to take advantage of Tuesday’s clinic.

“We don’t want people to be lulled into a false sense of complacency because the numbers are declining,” Grace said.

He said the prevalent thinking among students seems to be that they think the flu season is over, all is safe and they don’t need the vaccine. However, he said that generally, pandemics last up to 18 months so it’s likely there will be another wave of H1N1 infection in the future, perhaps as early as the spring semester.

“I’m afraid there aren’t enough vaccinated people out there to prevent the spread of the flu,” Grace added. “Health officials generally want to vaccinate about 70 percent of the population against H1N1 in order to protect a community against future outbreaks and we are nowhere near that figure. People definitely shouldn’t get complacent, especially during the holidays when they are traveling more and congregating. It is a good idea to remain cautious because although we are seeing decreased influenza activity locally, there are parts of the country that are still experiencing widespread flu activity.”

Students at SIUC may also make an appointment at other times with a provider at the Student Health Center to get the H1N1 vaccine, but those who get the shot at other times will pay a $6 front door fee.

The Student Health Center does not have any children’s vaccinations and recommends those wanting to get the vaccination for their children contact their local public health department.

Officials encourage University students to watch the Student Health Center’s Web site, or its Facebook page, for continuous updates about upcoming H1N1 flu clinics, times and locations. You can also call 618/453-3311 for more information.

The Illinois Flu Hotline also offers answers to questions about the H1N1 virus. The hotline is open 8:30 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday through Friday at 866/848-2094 (English) or 866/241-2138 (Spanish).