Stopping the flu at OU


Courtesy of Oakland University

President Ora Hirsch Pescovitz receives her flu shot at Kresge Library on Wednesday, Sept. 18.

Officials at Oakland University plan to get students healthy in a competitive way.

For the past five years, OU has been participating in the “Flu Vax Challenge,” which pits different colleges and universities against each other to see who can have the most vaccinated student body. 

Even President Ora Hirsch Pescovitz received a flu shot at the flu clinic at Kresge Library on Sept. 18.

Flu shots will be available on campus at the Graham Health Center (GHC) and at different clinics around campus. The influenza vaccine is completely free for all students.

Having free, convenient flu shots removes the barriers that stand in the way of students getting vaccinated. 

Nancy Jansen, nurse practitioner and director of the GHC, said students need to get a flu shot every year to be protected against the virus. 

“The flu can be a very deadly disease,” she said. “Even if it’s not a serious outcome, I can guarantee if you get the flu, you’re going to miss a minimum 5 days of school.”

Jansen said people die of the flu every year, regardless of whether they’re young or old. 

Some years are more lethal than others depending on the strain of the virus, but there is no way of predicting how bad the flu season will be from year to year. 

Jansen said the “Flu Vax Challenge” is just a fun, friendly competition to help promote flu shots. 

The challenge is sponsored by Alana’s Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to educating people about the severity of influenza and the importance of vaccinations.

Alana was a happy and healthy 5-year-old girl. In the evening of Feb. 1, 2003, she was rushed to the hospital where she later died due to flu-related complications that caused swelling in her brain. At the time, Alana had not been vaccinated against the flu. Since then, her family established Alana’s Foundation with the hopes of preventing what happened to them from happening to other families. 

Jansen said the influenza vaccine is very safe and effective. 

“There’s a very high bar for safety on a vaccine,” she said. “There’s boatloads of Ph.D.s that make these vaccines, that study these vaccines. You have to trust the science.”

Jansen said since OU started participating in the flu vax challenge, the number of students vaccinated has nearly doubled.

Janine Dack is a sophomore, and though she has gotten flu shots in the past, she hasn’t been vaccinated yet for this year. 

“I didn’t really realize that I had to do it every year and I didn’t know where to go,” she said. 

However, she said if she has the time, she will visit one of the vaccine stations available on campus and get her shot. 

Jansen urges students to get their free flu shots.

“It’s not just something like getting a cold,” she said. “It is a very serious health problem.”

If free, convenient vaccines aren’t enough to motivate, do it for the competition. Whether students get their shots at Oakland or at their local pharmacy, they can take the survey online through Alana’s Foundation to help Oakland climb up the rankings. 

“We better win,” Dack said.