Give it a shot: Flu vaccines make fall appearanceBy: Ruth CumminsThe University of Mississippi Medical Center will have a flu shot blitz this fall, but it will look a little different from previous years.In short, the mandatory vaccine might come to you, not the other way around.“Because getting the flu shot is so important in protecting ourselves and others, we are really trying to make vaccinations easily accessible,” said Lauren Turner, a nurse practitioner in the Department of Preventive Medicine. “To ensure full compliance, we want this to be an easy process convenient for all students and employees, both on and off campus.”Nurse practitioner Josie Bidwell, left, gives a flu shot to Ann Tardo during a visit from the Flu on Wheels cart to the Translational Research Center.The flu vaccination is also mandatory for volunteers and affiliate students. All students must be vaccinated by Nov. 30; employees, by Dec. 30. Those who don’t meet the deadline won’t be allowed to work, volunteer or complete educational requirements. On a case-by-case basis, employees could be granted an accommodation based on medical contraindications or religious reasons. Students and employees can apply for a vaccine accommodation here.Don’t assume the flu season will be light, as it was during the 2020-21 season, Medical Center experts say. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says just 2,038 flu cases were reported nationwide from September 2020-April 2021. That ballooned to between 8 million and 13 million for last year’s season, October 2021-June 2022.Widespread masking and hand hygiene made the difference in 2020-21, experts say.“Even though we have COVID, we certainly do still have flu,” said Dr. Risa Webb, a professor in the Division of Infectious Diseases. “Taking the flu vaccine can decrease its severity and risk of hospitalization, particularly in our older people.“As employees at a health care facility, we certainly don’t want to be the one who passes on flu to our patients. We will be around people who have flu in the hospital, and we certainly don’t want to bring it home to our families.”There are several choices on where and when to roll up your sleeve:The first phase, held this month and in October, is “Flu on Wheels,” a mobile approach where Student and Employee Health staff and volunteers visit departments and units weekday morning to provide the vaccination. Student and Employee Health is reaching out to larger departments and units to schedule a date and time.To request a Flu on Wheels visit in your area, fill out this survey:A mini flu blitz will take place Thursday, Sept. 22 and Friday Nov. 18, from 7:30 a.m.-3:30 p.m. in five locations scattered across the main Jackson campus.From Nov. 28-Dec.16, flu vaccines will be available next to the Business Office in the University Hospital breezeway, for several hours in the morning on weekdays as staffing allows. Staff also will go mobile on Thursdays, scouting the hospital to catch employees, students and volunteers in need of the vaccine.Flu vaccines are available in Student and Employee Health. Schedule appointments weekdays from 7:30 a.m. - 4:15 p.m. by calling 601-984-1185 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. Employees 65 and older need to make an appointment to get an adjuvant flu vaccine (Fluad) available only in Student and Employee Health. Its ingredients boost the body’s response to the vaccine.Don’t worry about getting your flu shot back to back with a COVID booster – or even in the same sitting, Webb said. “A recent study showed that there is no increased risk of infection on one or the other,” she said.It’s too early to tell just how well this year’s flu vaccine matches what turns out to be the dominant strain of flu. All of this year’s vaccines, however, protect against four strains. Last year, some vaccines only protected against three strains, Webb said.And even if the dominant strain isn’t included in those four strains, she said, get the vaccine because there’s likely some cross protection. She recommends getting the vaccine no later than October, and to be mindful that it takes about two weeks after vaccination before antibodies develop.Employees, students and volunteers receiving the vaccine outside UMMC must provide by Dec. 30 the only acceptable documentation, a copy of the Vaccine Administration Record (VAR). A pharmacy or outside clinic flu vaccine receipt will not be accepted. Submit the record to email@example.com by Dec. 30. You may also take a photo of your VAR documentation, and so long as it’s readable, email to firstname.lastname@example.org.Read UMMC’s mandatory Influenza Vaccination Policy here.Flu season generally hits from October to March, and it can be extended as determined by the CDC. The CDC recommends that everyone ages 6 months and older get the vaccine.Many national organizations, including the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Hospital Association and the Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America, have called for mandatory flu vaccines, and they are required at most academic medical centers.Flu kills thousands of people annually, most of them the very young, the very old or those with chronic heart or lung disease. It’s highly contagious and is spread by coughing and sneezing. Often death is due to bacterial pneumonia, a common complication of the flu.Questions? Contact Student and Employee Health at (601) 984-1185 or email email@example.com. To peruse frequently asked questions about the flu, go to the CDC’s website here.