Anna Chen, Contributing Writer
As the flu season nears and Richmonders continue to contract COVID-19, VCU is offering free flu vaccinations.
University Student Health Services is offering flu vaccinations by appointment only. VCU provided 4,038 free flu vaccines last year, Margaret Roberson, director of VCU Student Health Services, said in an email.
“We have begun our flu clinics for this year and we will hopefully see a significant increase in students receiving the flu vaccine through our marketing efforts this year,” Roberson said in an email.
The university encourages all students to receive a flu shot, especially those at high risk for complications. The VCU health center at 1300 W. Broad St. offers immunizations on Wednesday and Friday mornings, and Tuesday and Thursday afternoons.
Sophomore psychology major Krista Crowell said she was unaware that VCU is administering free flu vaccines.
“I’ve been looking to get myself vaccinated somewhere and now that I know VCU Health is offering it for free, I’m definitely going to clear up some time in my schedule and make an appointment,” Crowell said.
Influenza virus and COVID-19 symptoms are similar, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention stated it is almost impossible to differentiate between the two viruses. Getting the flu vaccine can help your body build up antibodies to fight off the viral infections.
Gonzalo Bearman, chair of infectious disease at VCU Health, said getting the flu shot can reduce strain on medical experts dealing with COVID-19 cases.
“The influenza vaccination further decreases the burden on the healthcare system of potentially dealing with two viral respiratory pathogen outbreaks at the same time,” Bearman said in an email.
Ruling out whether a patient is dealing with the flu or COVID-19 can help reduce risk by clearing up space in overwhelmed hospitals.
Bearmen said that although it’s uncommon, some patients have had cases of COVID-19 and influenza simultaneously. The outcomes are potentially severe for those with a co-infection.
The CDC stated it’s important to get the flu shot every year. The influenza virus evolves every year, meaning that last year’s vaccine may not be adequate enough to fight off the swiftly-adapting flu virus. Health officials say it’s more important than ever to receive the vaccine.
Sophomore psychology major Resshma Rajendran got her flu vaccine through her local doctor.
“I wanted to get my flu shot because I wanted to protect myself,” Rajendran said. “I didn’t want to possibly compromise my immune system further if I were to get COVID-19 too.”
To schedule a flu shot at University Health Services, make an appointment by calling 804-827-8047 for Monroe Park campus and 804-828-9220 for MCV.