Health Center to offer free H1N1 vaccines

The University Park Health Center has offered free flu shots in years past, but only to about 2,000 people. This year, officials expect things to be different.

This fall the UPHC, in conjunction with the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, will offer free H1N1 vaccine shots during a two-day period in early November, and officials are hoping the numbers will be quadrupled from last year’s flu shot turnout.

Dr. Lawrence Neinstein, director of the UPHC, said he would like to see 8,000 to 10,000 people show up for the free vaccines this year. In 2008, about 2,000 people received the seasonal flu shot vaccine, but Neinstein is preparing for a large-scale distribution this year.

Despite anticipation of high demand for the H1N1 shot, some students said they were wary of the relatively new vaccine.

“I would want to know if it has been tested and what the results are before I get the vaccine myself,” said Hasan Abbas, a sophomore majoring in neuroscience.

Other students said they will not get a flu shot because they don’t feel they need one, despite the widespread media coverage of the H1N1 virus.

“I don’t feel like I need to get the vaccine. I don’t believe it is a pressing issue,” said Madison Pachkowski, a sophomore majoring in kinesiology. “The H1N1 isn’t any different than the normal flu. I feel like it is more publicized and people are more aware of it, but people die from the flu every year.”

Still, officials are recommending the vaccine for everyone, including those who believe they are not susceptible to the flu.

“Unless you were specifically tested for H1N1 then you should still get the vaccine,” Neinstein said. “All indications suggest this is a safe, important and effective vaccine … You’re not just helping yourself but you’re helping everyone else on campus.”

Right now, the UPHC is looking at distributing the vaccine Nov. 3 and Nov. 4 at the Lyon Center, but Neinstein said the date, location and availability of the vaccine are subject to change.

The Department of Public Health will be staffing the event with nurses, supplying the vaccine and bringing the materials for distribution, Neinstein said. In case more people than expected show up on the first day, the county is prepared to bring more of the vaccine for the second day.

Jason Heim, a junior majoring in communications, said he thought the UPHC was right in preparing for more people who want the flu shot.

“I think more people will get the vaccine this year specifically because it is the H1N1. People will go this time who normally wouldn’t go for the regular flu shot,” Heim said.

Tamara Arakelyan, a junior majoring in public policy, managing and planning, said that although she has not gotten a flu shot before, she is considering it this year.

“I didn’t get the vaccine last year but I am more inclined to get it this year because there is so much hype about the H1N1 and I am more aware of it,” she said.

Neinstein noted that the event is not limited to just students.

“We would like to focus on the high priority groups but the county is not going to turn anyone away,” Neinstein said. “The flu kills 10,000 to 15,000 people every year; that is why it is important for everyone to get vaccinated every year, not just for the H1N1.”

There will be other opportunities to get the vaccine, but after this first event it will no longer be free. The UPHC is planning on passing out the vaccine later as well, but it will have to charge a small staffing fee since the county will no longer be bringing in its own staff, Neinstein said. There will also be an opportunity for students to receive the seasonal flu vaccine for free, but it will be separate from the H1N1 vaccine.