Given the current circumstances surrounding the national shortage of influenza vaccinations, Gannett Health Center has taken multiple precautions in protecting the community against an outbreak of influenza in the region.
Gannett received only one-eighth of its usual yearly supply and had to cancel its 40 flu vaccination clinics, originally available every year around this season. It must also follow the new guidelines set by the U.S. Center for Disease Control in administering the vaccine, which include factors such as age and underlying medical conditions.
As a result of the shortage, this year Gannett has had to scale back the number of flu shots given to Cornell's faculty and staff.
"Many faculty and staff members are used to getting the shot every year, and they called every day when news of the vaccine shortage first broke, wanting to know whether and when they could get a flu shot," said Sharon Dittman, associate director of university health services.
Dittman added, "Not all people in the high-risk category have chosen to get [the flu vaccine]."
She also explained that because of the shortage, Gannett has had to cancel its promotional activities, such as advertisements encouraging the community to get the vaccine. Upon receiving its supply of vaccinations, Gannett also had to work with the Tompkins County Health Department to assess the need for the vaccine locally before being able to administer the vaccine.
Though most students at a college campus do not qualify for the vaccinations under the CDC guidelines, there are still many who are eligible.
In fact, about two weeks ago Gannett contacted over 1,000 students on campus who may be in the high-risk category for the disease. These students may qualify if they indicated any asthmatic or other health conditions on their health history form. Those who received this letter of notification in the mail are encouraged to contact Gannett to get the vaccine.
One version of the letter stated, "The flu vaccine offers an extra measure of protection that will help you reduce the likelihood of experiencing lost time, sick days, and health complications. In spite of rumors to the contrary, getting a flu vaccine does not give you the flu or even flu-like symptoms. You may have a sore spot on your arm for a day or two, but it won't set you back on your study, work or fun."
According to Gannett's website, Cornell employees and students aged 65 years or older, or are two to 65 years of age with chronic medical conditions, should contact Gannett to schedule a vaccination.
Other factors also determine eligibility. For details, Gannett encourages direct consultation with them.
"We encourage anybody who wonders if they qualify for the vaccine to come in and talk to us about getting it," Dittman said.
Members of the Cornell community can also do their part to prevent exposure to the disease.
"With fewer people protected by the vaccine, there's a higher chance individuals will be exposed if the flu comes to Cornell," Dittman said. She pointed out that simple tasks such as frequently washing one's hands, avoiding close contact with people who are sick, avoiding sharing utensils, or covering one's mouth when coughing or sneezing can help a lot in preventing the flu.