Mason flu shot clinics promote community wellness

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The flu season started earlier than usual, said Lisa L. Park, MD, MPH, executive director of Student Health Services at George Mason University. And that makes it even more important for Mason Patriots to get their annual flu shots, if they haven’t already.

“The flu shot is really another tool that we have in our arsenal of public health measures to protect our community,” Park said.

In an effort to get as many people as possible immunized against the flu, Mason has announced dates for its annual Winter Wellness Flu Shot Clinics.

Registration is now open, and flu shots will be available on the Fairfax, Science and Technology, and Arlington Campuses on the following dates: Fairfax Campus: Thursday, Oct. 14, 10 a.m.-3 p.m. in Dewberry Hall in the Johnson Center; SciTech Campus: Tuesday, Oct. 19, noon to 1 p.m. in Colgan Hall, Room 110H; and Arlington Campus: Oct. 26, noon to 1 p.m. in Van Metre, Room 210.  Park says the clinic has historically produced a steady turnout, and nurses typically administer up to 200 shots to students. In addition, flu shots are available to students by appointment at Student Health Services. “We historically administer 600 to 800 shots in our clinic for students in a normal winter season.”

Each year, Mason immunization/allergy nurse specialist Eileen Neunaber, BSN, RN, who’s served at Mason for 12 years, works with Human Resources to organize the Winter Wellness Clinic. “Eileen and other SHS nurses do a great job of ensuring that our students have good access to the flu shot,” Park said.

This year, even those with egg allergies can also get a flu shot. FLUBLOK—a different brand of flu vaccine—is now available. 

“Common side effects for the flu shot are low grade fever, body aches, soreness at the site, and you may feel more tired the day or two after because your body’s immune system is responding to the vaccine,” said Park.

Those most affected by the flu are similar to those affected most affected by the coronavirus—the very young, elderly, or immunocompromised.

The flu and COVID-19 are respiratory viruses that are transmissible by respiratory droplets. The probability of transmission is greatly reduced by wearing masks, adhering to physical distancing guidelines, and practicing good hand hygiene, according to Amira Albert Roess, professor of global health and epidemiology in Mason’s College of Health and Human Services.

Because there are less population-wide public health measures in place, and more people interacting than last year, Park doesn’t think this year’s flu season will be as mild as last year. She urges everyone to get their flu shot now because in this region the flu season generally peaks around December or January.

“Flu symptoms are very similar to COVID-19 symptoms,” said Park. “They can both present with common symptoms of fever, chills, fatigue, and sore throat.”

The cost for the flu shot for students without insurance is $30 (offered only at the Fairfax event with a Mason ID). Students can also get flu shots  administered by Giant pharmacists for free with insurance. Flu shots are also free for students with Aetna Student Health Insurance Plan.

The Winter Wellness Flu Shot Clinics are also open to Mason employees, and registration is available on the HR website

The flu shot clinics are one of our most anticipated employee events of the year,” said Lester Arnold, vice president for Human Resources and Payroll. “Everyone is always so eager and excited to do their part in protecting themselves and the community. We are happy to provide on-site flu shot clinics at our three Virginia campuses as a convenient option for faculty and staff.”

Last year, 160 flu shots were administered to faculty and staff. In previous years, around 250 to 300 flu shots were administered to Mason employees. Flu shots for Mason employees have been offered by HR since 2010, and their partnership with Student Health Services began in 2012.

Giant pharmacists administer free flu shots to COVA members. Mason employees are advised to complete and bring the pharmacy's consent form to ensure a faster process. Learn more about this year's vaccine on the Centers for Disease Control's website.

Flu shot clinics will follow all safety and social distancing protocols. Shots will be offered by appointment only. Students may register for a Winter Wellness Clinic or get more information about flu shot options at the Student Health Services website. Employees should email questions to worklife@gmu.edu.

“If you currently have any COVID symptoms—fever, chills, if you’re symptomatic, don’t come to the Winter Wellness Flu Clinic,” Park added. “We want to keep everybody safe.”

Participants in the Winter Wellness Flu Shot Clinic should bring their Mason ID to the clinic, wear a face covering, wear a short sleeve shirt, bring a health insurance ID card (if using), and complete the Mason COVID Health Check before coming to campus.