UCI Health Sciences students administer nearly 400 Flu vaccines

At an interprofessional student-led event, volunteers from the UC Irvine School of Pharmacy & Pharmaceutical Sciences, the Program in Public Health, the Sue & Bill Gross School of Nursing and the Student Health Center provided flu shots to nearly 400 undergraduate and graduate students in a three-day, pop-up clinic at Anteater Plaza.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the influenza (flu) vaccine prevented an estimated 7.52 million illnesses, 3.69 million medical visits, 105,000 hospitalizations, and 6,300 deaths due to influenza during the 2019-2020 season.

“It can be easy to think that getting the flu shot isn’t necessary, but I know from firsthand experience, like many others, that recovering from the flu is not fun at all,” said Lily To, a first-year Doctor of Pharmacy student. “It’s important to get the flu shot every year to make sure our bodies get the most updated protection from that year’s flu variant!

The idea for the pop-up clinic started with the need to conveniently administer flu shots to students who hadn’t found the time to visit their healthcare provider or the UCI Student Health Center. A UC Policy, implemented in October, stated that all students, faculty, and staff were required to receive a flu vaccine this season to stave off a flu outbreak amid the ongoing pandemic.

“This was an important event as we aim to increase the number of students in compliance with the mandatory Flu vaccination policy,” said Megan Nguyen, PharmD, founding associate dean of student affairs within the UCI School of Pharmacy & Pharmaceutical Sciences. “The flu can be deadly and cause many health issues, so the more protected people are, the better.”

In total, 10 public health students, nine nursing students, and 10 pharmacy students volunteered their time and expertise to help their fellow students. Additionally, four nursing clinical faculty members and several other staff members stepped in to oversee each day’s operations and supervise students.

Julia Cowell, a fourth-year bachelor of nursing science student volunteer, was heartened to serve her peers at UCI. “It was an amazing experience, and I enjoyed the opportunity to give back, and there was the added benefit of collaborating with my fellow College of Health Sciences peers,” she said.

Bernardo Cortez, a third-year public health policy undergraduate student volunteer, agreed with Cowell’s sentiments. “This has been such a gratifying experience, showing our students that it’s okay to get a vaccine. I’m always the first in line to get a vaccine because it’s important each year to do so, but now more than ever.”

In addition to receiving the flu shot, students were able to ask health-related questions and receive information on how to maintain their health during the flu season.

“It was inspiring to see how our health sciences students were impacting and educating their fellow students,” Cowell added. “Collaborating like this helps us understand other specialties and the individual strengths we bring to the table.”

The event was a resounding success.

“With little notice or promotion, there were lines each day at times, and we were consistently vaccinating,” said associate clinical professor Leanne Burke, director of nursing prelicensure programs. “This push is especially big this year because of COVID, students returning to campus and the upcoming winter break.”

Burke notes that there may be more events heading into winter until the student population is fully vaccinated or they run out of supply.

“Currently, the student vaccination rate is at 73 percent and growing daily, thanks in large part to the success of the pop-up flu clinics,” says Charles Adams, administrative director of the UCI Student Health Center. 

More pop-ups are being planned, including another one this month. After the new year, says Adams, pop-ups will be held for the remainder of the season. Students can schedule flu shots, COVID vaccines and boosters at the UCI Student Health Center.

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