Above: A University of Florida Health study shows flu vaccines could possibly protect people from severe Covid-19 infections. Hear the story, reported by Zach Cohen, that aired on WUFT-FM.
Riley Mixson gets a flu vaccine every year because she has to do so
Her mom, Shayce, has an autoimmune disease that prevents her from getting the vaccine herself. Mixson, 21, is a third-year theatre major at the University of Florida who does not want to pose a risk to her mom or others like her who are also more susceptible to diseases.
“It’s important for me to get the shot to protect other people around me like my mom – but not just my mom – and do my part,” she said, “especially if it’s free and takes no time out of my day.”
UF Health officials are urging everyone to get a flu shot this year to limit the spread of the flu with the added threat of the ongoing pandemic.
Dr. Nicole Iovine is an infectious disease specialist at UF Health. She strongly encourages all students to get a flu vaccine for their own health and the health of others.
“I know young people are usually very confident about their health, and they’re usually very healthy,” she said, “but anyone who has had the flu will tell you that it will take you out for a week. Students can’t afford to be out of school and away from their studies for a week.”
Iovine said she is also concerned that students who are traveling home for the upcoming Thanksgiving break will transmit the flu to relatives who may be older or at risk.
Iovine said she hopes to dispel misinformation that discourages people from the shot.
“One of the myths about the flu vaccine is that it gives you the flu,” she said. “The flu shot is a dead virus, so there’s no way you can get the flu from the vaccine.”
Another myth making the rounds is that precautions for the coronavirus are effective for the flu as well and negate the need for a flu vaccine.
“If you’re wearing your mask for COVID, you are being protected from the flu as well, but that is not a reason to not get the flu shot,” the doctor warned.
According to Iovine, there is evidence that people can have the flu and the coronavirus simultaneously, which poses a severe threat to their health.
She recognized that the vaccine is not perfect, but she said studies show people who get the flu after getting a shot have less severe symptoms and are less likely to transmit the disease to someone else.
The flu vaccine has become increasingly accessible this year.
UF Health has been offering free flu shots to students, faculty and staff since Sept. 14 through the “#GatorsFightFlu” initiative. Members of the UF community have until Friday to make an appointment and get their vaccine for free.
Mixson took advantage of UF’s offering and got her flu shot at the Student Health Care Center. She said she had a positive, efficient experience and appreciates that the vaccine is free for students.
Local drugstores and grocery stores are also offering the flu vaccine for free to those who present an insurance card, and some are even offering a reward.
Katherine DeArmas, a criminology sophomore, got her flu shot at a Publix on Archer Road for free after showing her insurance card. She received a $10 Publix gift card for her actions.
“It felt more important to get my flu shot this year with the pandemic going around as we approach flu season,” she said. “The money was a nice addition to the flu shot because it’s always nice to have extra money on the side.”
DeArmas said she plans to spend her gift card on snacks for Halloween.