A jab to keep the doc away

(Edmonton) As part of an annual influenza campaign, flu vaccination clinics will open at the University of Alberta main campus, Enterprise Square, Campus Saint-Jean and Augustana Campus. The effort is expected to help reduce the number of students who say their work was affected by the flu season, says Kevin Friese, assistant director of University Wellness Services.

“Twenty per cent of respondents to the National College Health Assessment survey that we ran last year indicated that their academics within the previous 12 months were affected by flu,” Friese says.

“In doing this, we’re assisting students. They can focus on their academics and living healthy lives. For staff, it’s an opportunity to stay safe and healthy, so they don’t have to take time off work. And from an ethical and moral perspective, it’s something that we can do to support the community as a whole.

The U of A campaign, which is part of an ongoing provincewide initiative, is organized by University Wellness Services, Human Resource Services and the faculties of nursing and pharmacy. The clinics are open to students and staff.

Clinics around campus

  • The clinic at Enterprise Square’s Blue Room opens Oct. 31 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
  • The clinic at Campus Saint-Jean will be in the Grand Salon of Pavillon Lacerte on Nov. 1 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
  • The clinic at Augustana Campus, organized in conjunction with Alberta Health Services, is in the Faith and Life Centre on Nov. 13 from noon to 3 p.m.
  • For four days from Nov. 6 to 9, a clinic will operate on the U of A’s north campus.

More than 5,000 students, staff and faculty at the university received the flu shots during last year’s campaign. And for some of the students, the benefits go beyond being vaccinated. “Our program is the only program I’m aware of in Alberta where we involve our pharmacy and nursing students,” Friese says.

An educational booster

“So rather than just leaving the clinics to registered nurses, physicians and pharmacists, we undertake a learning opportunity in which students are supervised so that you have instructors and registered pharmacists on hand to help instruct and supervise them, working in an interdisciplinary setting. So they have an opportunity to get some hands-on experience in the full breadth of an influenza campaign.”

Friese says people who come early won’t have to stand in long lines waiting. “We’ve created a format where the wait times tend to be minimal for people coming. Last year the campus flu campaign’s average wait times during off-peak hours were less than five minutes with patients getting in right away. During peak hours, wait times were about 12 minutes. “We want to encourage people to come early,” he notes, “as we did see many staff and students waiting until the last day of clinics. During the last day of main campus clinics, wait times crested at nearly two hours.”

Aside from the vaccination, Friese notes other ways people can protect themselves from the flu virus.

“We believe that flu is transmitted through droplets created when people with the flu cough. So it’s important to wash your hands regularly with soap and warm water, or use an alcohol-based sanitizer. You can also reduce the spread of flu by ensuring that you’re coughing into your arm and not coughing into your hands, which you then use to touch doorknobs, lights and other surfaces.”

According to Alberta Health, flu symptoms can include a fever of 38 to 40 degrees Celsius, body aches and pains, fatigue, a dry cough, runny nose and a sore throat. Friese notes that if individuals start to experience flu-like symptoms, they should stay home, get lots of rest, liquids and not be out in the community where they might be affecting their own health and the health of others.

Staff and students are advised to bring their ONEcard or an equivalent form of identification.