In the race to get required flu immunizations at the University of Mississippi Medical Center, the employees are winning.
The students are running second, but they're poised for a strong finish.
As the Dec. 1 deadline for meeting the requirement looms, the Student and Employee Health office is reminding the Medical Center family that even though flu isn't rampant in the state, being protected now is critical.
“This time last year, we had exceeded about 8,460 immunizations,” said Dr. Joyce Olutade, medical director of Student and Employee Health. But of the 12,428 students, faculty and employees who must meet the requirement, 9,224 had rolled up their sleeves as of late Wednesday. That number includes 61.8 percent of students and 78 percent of employees. Off-campus students taking classes online also must comply, as must volunteers at the Medical Center,
Free immunizations are available from 7 a.m.-4:30 p.m. weekdays at Student and Employee Health, and during regular business hours at tables set up throughout the Medical Center, including the hallway leading to University Hospital and at the School of Medicine entrance.
It's important to note that this year's deadline is a week earlier than the 2014 deadline of Dec. 9, Olutade said. The 2014 final compliance rate was 98 percent.
“We will be closed for two days for the Thanksgiving holidays,” Olutade said. “People don't realize that Dec. 1 is upon us. They might think that they have the whole of December, but they don't.”
Joy Akanji, nurse manager of Student and Employee Health, gives a flu shot to Dr. Kayla Bryant, a pediatric dentistry resident.
Dr. Kayla Bryant, a pediatric dentistry resident, got her shot last week after waiting, on her doctor's instruction, to finish out a regimen of a prescription medication. She said she'd get the immunization whether it was required or not.
“It was a good experience, and the ladies at Student and Employee Health were very nice. It didn't hurt at all,” Bryant said. “I have a five-and-a-half-month-old at home, and I treat children all day long. I don't want to get the flu, and I don't want to give it to anyone else.”
Some people believe that because they're not hearing much about flu outbreaks, they should delay getting the shot until the last minute, Olutade said. “I've had people tell me they want the flu shot to last, so they're waiting,” she said. “We tend to get our peak from January through March, and it takes two weeks to build immunity, so people have no excuse now. You don't want to wait until the peak.”
She urges Medical Center students and employees who have already received their immunizations from an outside provider to email that proof to email@example.com by the Dec. 1 deadline. A vaccine administration record from the provider is the only acceptable proof; receipts for the cost of the vaccine won't meet the requirement.
Appropriate disciplinary action consistent with UMMC's policy will be taken for those who don't comply. Student disciplinary action is managed through their school-specific policies. For more information about how to comply, view the Medical Center's flu policy at https://documents.umc.edu/ViewPolicy.aspx?pid=H-IP-GEN-GEN-PO-00079