Over 1,000 students have been vaccinated against the seasonal flu since Health Services started offering free shots against the virus on Monday, said Director of Health Services Edward Wheeler.
The number of vaccinations from Monday and Tuesday alone is already approaching the 1,200 to 1,500 students per year who have gotten the vaccine in the recent past, Wheeler said. The free shots do not protect against the swine flu virus.
Health Services has traditionally offered two or three free clinics per year, but this fall is offering earlier and more frequent seasonal flu immunizations in order to devote resources to treating those with the H1N1 virus, Wheeler said.
"The more seasonal flu we can prevent, the more people with symptoms will probably have the H1N1," he said.
Wheeler added that 30 to 50 percent of the US population is expected to contract the H1N1 virus over this year, and that college students are especially at risk.
"You bring people from all over the world, you crowd them into dormitories and classrooms — it's kind of a set-up for the spread of infection," he said, adding that "it's a novel virus … because there's no natural immunity, you expect a high attack rate."
Wheeler said 316 students have already used the online reporting system to notify Health Services of influenza-like symptoms. The Rhode Island State Department of Health only allows three students per week to be tested for H1N1, he said, but "it's a clinical diagnosis based on symptoms. We presume if you have those symptoms, you have it."
In addition, seven of the last eight lab test results from students were positive for H1N1, he said.
Still, he added, "in general, the illness has been mild. We've had no hospitalizations."
The University received most of the flu shots from the state and purchased the rest from a supplier, Wheeler said, adding that the school will not receive the H1N1 vaccine until the state has the resources to distribute it.
In the meantime, Health Services has been promoting the seasonal flu vaccine with table slips, posters and e-mails to high-risk students, he said.
Vaccines will be offered Monday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. throughout October and then by appointment for the remainder of the year.
Students who got the seasonal flu vaccination said the process was quick and painless.
"It was very pleasant," said Ashtin Charles '12. "I was in and out in less than a minute."
Emily Shelkowitz '12 said she didn't know why anyone would miss the opportunity to get the shot. "I'd rather not get sick and have to miss classes if I can avoid it," she said.
"It was free, I had time and I couldn't think of a good reason not to," said Alex Hills '11, who went to Jo's with his friend Joanna Berg '10 to get the seasonal flu vaccine.
"I have a really busy semester and I really didn't want to get sick," said Berg, who has gotten the seasonal flu shot at Brown since her first year.
Nurses from Health Services, extra per diem nurses and volunteer emergency medical technicians have been administering the vaccine.
"It's something that's helpful to the campus right now, especially given the concern everybody has" about the flu. said Marie DeLuca '12, an EMT who volunteered to help give the vaccine later in the week. "I think it's cool to have the opportunity to help out."