A national look at this year’s flu season would mark it as particularly severe, and the outbreak on the Bowdoin campus has been no exception. However, while the national narrative has pointed to the lack of efficacy in the flu vaccine as a factor in the severity of this year’s flu season, Director of Health Services Birgit Pols said that the Bowdoin Health Center has not seen flu in those who have received the vaccine.

Pols said that she has only spoken to one student sick with the flu who also received the vaccine, and that all others were students who had not been vaccinated.

Pols does not have exact numbers for either cases of the flu or vaccinations at Bowdoin at the moment, as both flu season and the vaccination process are ongoing.

“Flu incidence, I imagine, is going to parallel flu incidence in the community,” she said. “This season, what we’re seeing in Maine is more peaks and valleys, and I suspect that’s what we’re going to be seeing on campus.”

The flu virus is spread through the air, and tends to crop up when cold weather keeps people inside and in close quarters.

Pols said that she encourages students with flu symptoms to remain in their rooms, as the flu could increase their chances of catching other illnesses that may be going around campus.

Although the Health Center has only seen one student who has the flu and also had the vaccine, Pols said that students with the vaccine may still be getting some degree of flu.

“It may be that the people who got the vaccine are getting ill but not as sick, or have crossover protection from previous vaccines,” she said.

According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), this year’s flu vaccine only reduced one’s chances of having to go to the doctor from flu by 23 percent. By comparison, successful vaccines generally reduce this chance by 50 to 60 percent.

The flu vaccine usually protects against two to three of the strains of the flu virus that the World Health Organization estimates will be most widespread in each particular year. 

“The problem is, sure you chose the ones that were the most prevalent,” said Associate Professor of Biology and Biochemistry Anne McBride. “But life’s random, and you can never know if it’s the best prediction that they have... it’s like weather prediction.”