October 7, 2020: Public Health Update

From: Tom McLarney, MD

Date: October 7, 2020

Subject: Public Health Update

To our Wesleyan community,

We are now into October with very reassuring low rates of COVID-19 positivity on campus. As I write, we currently have 0 active cases amongst students and employees. To date, we’ve had only 8 positive cases total identified through Wesleyan’s testing during the course of the fall semester (two positive student cases reported earlier on our COVID-19 dashboard were later determined to be false positives).

As we celebrate this success, we must also plan ahead as the weather gets colder. Last year, our campus experienced high flu activity. Influenza and COVID-19 can present with very similar symptoms, and could easily overwhelm our campus and the local health system if we’re not careful. Thus, this year, Wesleyan is requiring that all students get flu shots by January 20, 2021 (unless exercising a religious or medical exemption permitted by State of Connecticut law).

Wesleyan has scheduled four flu shot clinics at the Freeman Athletic Center on October 12, 13, 14, and 15. Appointments will be required; an email from the Health Center went out earlier this week with information on registering for a time slot. The cost of the vaccine is covered under the student insurance plan, while students with private insurance will receive a statement to file with their insurance company for reimbursement.

Wesleyan has obtained more doses of the vaccine than in a typical year, but still not enough to cover every single student. Therefore, we unfortunately will be unable to accommodate staff and faculty as in years past. Employees, as well as any students who are unable or choose not to get a flu shot on campus, can obtain a flu shot from most local pharmacies or their own health care provider. Flu shots are covered by Cigna as well as most other insurance plans. (See Cigna’s webpage to find a participating flu vaccine provider). Please note that most pharmacies require patrons to call ahead to schedule a shot. It takes about two weeks for one’s immune system to respond to the vaccine, so you should get the shot as early in the season as possible. Students who receive the flu shot off-campus must email a copy of the vaccination paperwork to healthforms@wesleyan.edu.

Lest anyone feel apprehensive about getting a flu shot, I’d like to dispel some common myths. While the shot can cause some mild side effects, such as making you feel a bit achy or feverish, it is nothing compared to the misery of the actual flu. Though having an egg allergy was previously a reason not to get a flu shot, those with the allergy can now receive the shot safely. Finally, some may be discouraged from getting a shot because it is not 100 percent effective against the flu. It’s important to know that this is the case for all vaccines. Every year, the flu shot is developed to cover three or four strains of the flu virus felt most likely to be the predominant infections for the upcoming season, and efficacy usually hovers near 60 percent. However, getting the shot helps to reduce the overall spread of the flu and, even for those who do get sick, it tends to decrease the severity of symptoms.

I implore everyone to get a flu shot, not only for your own health but for the health of your friends and everyone around you.

Stay well!

Tom McLarney, MD