The doors opened at 8 a.m., but Shelley Ayala was third in line to receive her complimentary flu vaccination early on Oct. 21.
A resident of Riverview, Fla., Ayala has been coming to the USF College of Public Health’s flu vaccination drive, a collaborative effort with USF Health and the Hillsborough County Health Department, for six years.
“I start in September and watch for it,” Ayala said. “It’s on my way to work and I get it every year. I knew exactly where to come, so I was already standing in line at 7:30 a.m.”
This year marks the 20th year the COPH has collaborated with students across USF Health to vaccinate the public.
USF nursing and medical students, who have already successfully completed clinical training, administered 948 shots under the clinical supervision of an interdisciplinary team.
USF College of Nursing supervisor Margaret Ewen, MSPH, BSN, RN, registered nurse supervisor at the Florida Department of Health – Hillsborough County Adriene James, BSN, RN, occupational medicine residents and COPH faculty and staff who are also nurses are among those who supervised students.
The shots are provided free to the public because COPH underwrites the cost the vaccine, which is supplied by the Hillsborough County Health Department, said Ellen Kent, MPH, CPH, coordinator of COPH Student Research Grants, the Sunshine ERC and USF Health Service Corps.
Dolu Afolabi and Mary Hill, both first year graduate students in the Department of Community and Family Health, decided to volunteer at this year’s event.
“I’m here because I want to give back to the community,” Afolabi said.
Afolabi and Hill were stationed to welcome guests to the reception area where drinks and fruit were provided.
“In class, we learn about the community, but here we’re are actually seeing people from the community and putting it into practice,” Hill said.
The event also included educational displays from public health student groups and community groups, on topics ranging from epidemiology of the flu to pediatric vaccination recommendations.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that everyone six months of age and older receive the flu vaccine, as the contagious respiratory virus can lead to severe illness or even death, placing children under five, pregnant women and adults ages 65 and older at higher risk.
“So, what we do by getting as many people vaccinated as possible, we create what is called herd immunity,” said Jill Roberts, PhD, associate professor at the USF College of Public Health. “If more and more people are actually protected, we can protect the more vulnerable people.”
Flu season typically runs from October to May in the U.S., with peaks occurring between December and February, according to the CDC. To view the latest influenza surveillance tracking data, visit the CDC’s FluView webpage.
Story by Anna Mayor, USF College of Public Health