The USF College of Public Health’s annual flu shot drive kicked off early on Nov. 13, with community residents, faculty, staff and students lining up to receive the shots before the vaccinations had even arrived.
This is the 19th year the USF College of Public Health (COPH) has sponsored the free flu vaccination drive, a collaborative effort with USF Health and the Hillsborough County Health Department. USF nursing and medical students, who have already successfully completed clinical training, administered 861 shots under clinical supervision. An interdisciplinary team supervised the students including Margaret Ewen, MSPH, BSN, RN, adjunct faculty instructor at the USF College of Nursing, occupational medicine residents, Adriene James, BSN, RN, registered nurse supervisor at the Florida Department of Health – Hillsborough County, and Barbara Kennedy, MS, MPH, ARNP, of the USF College of Public Health. The event also included educational displays from public health student groups.
“Vaccines are one of the top 10 public health achievements of the 20th Century and we are honored to be able to participate in a tried and true tradition,” said Donna J. Petersen, ScD, MHS, CPH, dean of the USF College of Public Health. “The annual flu shot day is just one tangible way we can give back to the community that gives so much to us. Our commitment to improving public health extends across USF Health and this shared vision is clearly on display here as we come together as colleges of medicine, nursing, pharmacy and public health to help protect the public from harm.”
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.
USF Physical Plant staff member, Steven Bury, and his wife Maria were the first in line and have attended the flu shot drive for the past five years. Mr. Bury, who arrived before 7:30 a.m., was off from work for the day but decided make a visit to the USF College of Public Health to get vaccinated.
“Because we’re up in age, we want to make sure that we’re taken care of and that we don’t have any problems down the road,” he said.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that everyone six month of age and older receive the flu vaccine, as the contagious respiratory virus can lead to severe illness or even death.
“Perfectly healthy people can die from influenza,” said Jill Roberts, PhD, associate professor at the USF College of Public Health.
The flu virus is not just a concern for infants, elderly and people at high risk. Influenza affects a significant portion of the healthy adult population. Of particular concern is pregnant women, who are at very high risk.
“We see tragic stories across Florida and the United States of women in third trimesters who pass away from the flu,” said Jamie P. Morano, MD, MPH, associate professor at USF’s colleges of medicine and public health and is also medical director for the Florida Department of Health, Hillsborough County.
The vaccination has a near 80 percent efficacy rate, but not everyone can receive the vaccine, such as infants under six months. Those who cannot be vaccinated benefit indirectly from vaccinated adults and children who help build herd immunity.
“It’s like a railroad track, and if you break up the railroad track the train is not going to be able to go and that’s what the flu vaccine does,” Dr. Morano said. “It breaks up the chain of transmission in the community.”
COPH doctoral student, Samuel Matos, volunteered at the event by checking in community members as they arrived.
“I love the experience of interacting with people,” he said. “I have fallen in love with public health in the sense that you are able to apply many educational interventions and initiatives to help people protect themselves and prevent them from being sick in the first place.”
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.
See photos by Ellen Kent here.
Story by Anna Mayor, USF College of Public Health. Additional reporting and video by Sandra C. Roa, photos by Eric Younghans, USF Health Office of Communications.