Flu immunization is not high on the to-do list of most Bowdoin students. The Health Center reported that an uncommonly low number of students sought vaccinations this semester. Typically, by Thanksgiving Break, 500 to 600 students request the shot; only 200 students have been vaccinated so far this year.
Director of Health Services Sandra Hayes guessed that many people who were infected or immunized last year—either with H1N1 or the generic flu—do not realize the necessity for yearly repetition.
Last year, H1N1, or swine flu, swept the campus, and the College responded. Peer Health aggressively advertised vaccination shots with posters and a student dressed as a syringe on Bowdoin Cable Network.
The Health Center repeatedly ran out of vaccinations, as the demand was so high.
This year, less national attention has been given to flu, said Hayes, who also noted that the abundance of shots may make people less proactive about pursuing them.
This year, flu shot clinics have been primarily advertized in school-wide e-mails and the Student Digest.
According to Health Education Coordinator Emily Skinner '08, "We don't have any plans to break out the needle costume."
Student awareness of the clinics ranges. Rachel Turkel '11, a yearly flu shot receiver, got her vaccination at Bowdoin after hearing about them in the Digest.
But the messages did not reach all students. Molly Lammert '13, who has received the vaccination in the past and plans to get one at home over Winter Break, "heard something about [the clinics], but didn't know if it was actually true."
Hayes said the school is not overly-worried about the decrease in student vaccination. The Health Center, however, is bracing itself for late January, when flu season usually peaks in Maine. The first flu case of the season was confirmed the week of November 9 in the Bath/Topsham area.
"Because we live in a residential community, illnesses such as the flu can travel rapidly, and to protect students we offer [the vaccine] with the College absorbing the cost," Hayes said.
In addition to the clinics, students can get vaccinations by appointment.
"It's quick, it's free, and you can't get the flu from the flu shot," said Hayes.