As the weather gets colder, respiratory illnesses become more common, particularly in communal living environments like college campuses. In an effort to curb this, Middlebury is offering free flu vaccine clinics for all students and employees in October and November.
In an email sent to students on Oct. 16, Alison Finch, director of Health Services, wrote that while the flu vaccine is not required for students, it is strongly recommended.
Barbara McCall, associate vice president for student health and well-being, described to The Campus the heightened risk of illness on a college campus, which falls under the definition of a congregate living setting due to many people living in close proximity with high use shared spaces like restrooms and dining halls. For those reasons, Middlebury recommends students get a flu shot.
“The best way to prevent risks from the flu and its complications is to get vaccinated. We want our students to be able to focus on being students, and illness can get in the way of that,” Finch wrote in an email to The Campus.
Middlebury offers the flu vaccine for students both at the clinics and at Health Services, but Mark Peluso, Middlebury’s chief health officer and college physician, urged students to sign up online for a flu vaccine clinic. “I think these flu clinics are a great option, and they preserve appointments at health services for other types of visits. I encourage students to go ahead and get a flu vaccine,” Peluso said in a video about the vaccine clinics released by the college on Oct. 24.
Middlebury partners with Addison County Home Health and Hospice to run both the student and employee flu vaccine clinics. This partnership allows Health Services to remain open during these clinics, as the clinics are staffed by employees from both places, according to McCall.
Middlebury ordered 800 flu vaccines to arrive throughout the fall, and hopes to administer all of them, McCall said. She noted that in past years, flu vaccines were required for students due to the overlap in symptoms between the flu and Covid-19. The flu vaccines are not being mandated by the college this year.
In addition to getting vaccinated, Finch wrote that good personal hygiene can also prevent viral infections. She recommended thorough hand washing, avoiding close contact with people who are sick and getting at least seven to eight hours of sleep each night.
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also recommends that everyone over the age of five get the updated Covid-19 vaccine. This vaccine, which was released in September, was formulated to protect against the most prominent strains of Covid-19 currently in the U.S. The new Covid-19 vaccine is not available on campus like the first Covid-19 vaccine was in the spring of 2021. Only pharmacies and doctor’s offices currently offer the updated vaccine. Middlebury’s student and employee health insurance covers vaccines for the flu, Covid and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) at in-network pharmacies and doctor’s offices, which can be found online.
The CDC anticipates the flu, Covid-19 and RSV will be the most prevalent viruses this winter and predicts a similar number of related hospitalizations as last year. The new Covid-19 vaccine has thus far not been nearly as popular among Americans as previous doses were: As of Oct. 14, only 7% of adults and 2% of children had gotten the vaccine, according to the New York Times.
“CDC is predicting a busy respiratory illness season this winter, and we have three vaccine recommendations that will help us combat the risk of severe disease,” Peluso said in the video, referring to the vaccines available for the flu, Covid-19 and RSV.
Finch suggested that students who become ill this winter reach out to Health Services for support. “This might include suggestions for symptom management, an in-person visit at Health Services, or a referral to other services in the community,” she wrote.
The on-campus flu vaccine clinics are well underway — the employee clinics took place in mid-October, and the student clinics were offered twice already on Oct. 19 and Oct. 24 with one more coming up on Nov. 10 from 12–3 p.m. in the Abernathy Room in Axinn Center. Students can sign up for the flu vaccine clinic online through the student health portal.
Susanna Schatz ‘24 (she/her) is the Senior News Editor.
She previously served as Local Editor, Staff Writer, and Visuals Artist for The Campus. She is an English major and Gender, Sexuality, and Feminist Studies minor.
Susanna is the social media and marketing intern for a small business started by Midd Alums, Treeline Terrains. In her free time you’ll find her taking in the Vermont outdoors hiking, swimming, skiing, reading in an Adirondack chair, or painting the scenery.