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Amidst Heightened Flu Season, UHS Administers Thousands of Vaccines

By Celeste M. Mendoza, Crimson Staff Writer

UPDATED: February 13, 2015, at 12:57 a.m.

During a flu season that has seen nationally elevated levels of illnesses, hospitalizations, and deaths, Harvard University Health Services has administered over 15,000 flu vaccinations since August with over 2,700 vaccinations completed for College students, according to a UHS spokesperson Lindsey Baker.

UHS purchased vaccines during the summer and has administered them in general flu clinics since September. These weekly student clinics were held at the Smith Campus Center and in dining halls through the end of December. One final clinic occurred on February 2.

Prior to flu season, various groups, including the World Health Organization and the Food and Drug Administration, collect data to predict which flu strains will be most prevalent in the upcoming year and should therefore be used in the vaccine.

According to Barry R. Bloom, professor at the School of Public Health, this year’s flu season has been particularly severe because the vaccine does not provide effective protection against some H3N2 strains of virus. According to Bloom, the other three strains in the vaccine were accurately predicted. However, the lack of protection for some other strains has led to high flu activity, he said.

UHS has reported only a small number of students and community members falling ill with the flu, the majority of whom had not yet been vaccinated.

Some students, however, report coming down with the flu even after having been vaccinated at UHS. Nick P. Heath ’18 was vaccinated in September during a routine physical exam which was required in order to walk onto the men’s lightweight crew team. Despite getting vaccinated, he contracted the virus near the end of the fall semester.

“Overall I have a good immune system and haven't been that sick in a few years,” Heath said.

Despite the absence of some strains in the current vaccine, Bloom recommends getting inoculated, as the vaccine can be effective against certain strains of the virus. In particular, he recommends the vaccine for children and elderly people, populations that are the most susceptible to the flu.

—Staff writer Celeste M. Mendoza can be reached at celeste.mendoza@thecrimson.com. Follow her on Twitter @CelesteMMendoza.

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