College students may be high risk for H1N1, but SIUE students have mixed feelings about vaccine
This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Nov. 13, 2009 - Students at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville say they are using hand sanitizers and taking other steps to avoid getting or spreading H1N1 -- the swine flu -- but they have mixed feelings about being vaccinated against the virus.
Robyn Kelly, 18, a freshman from Belleville, is among those who feel it is important to get vaccinated as soon as the vaccine becomes available.
"Living on a college campus, it's all there -- you're exposed to so much,'' Kelly said. "It's scary because it's making everybody sick."
On the other hand, freshman Garrett Shaffer, 19, who is studying physical education, said he is concerned about the safety of the vaccine.
"I'm wary of it,'' Shaffer said. "I stay healthy enough as it is."
And Sarah Jones, 22, a bio-medical student, said that she never gets the seasonal flu shot and sees no reason to change her ways for the swine flu.
Although college students are among the groups identified as most susceptible to H1N1, nearly seven of 10 Americans aged 18 to 29 said they did not plan to heed the warnings to get vaccinated against swine flu, according to a Washington Post-ABC news poll released in early November.
SIUE reported its first confirmed case of swine flu in September. Since then, more than 30 cases have been confirmed by the university's health service, although the actual number of cases on campus is unknown because students and employees often go to their own doctors or may not seek medical attention at all, according to nurse administrator Susan Grimes.
The university has developed an emergency medical plan to deal with swine flu, including a website devoted to H1N1. Students, faculty and staff have been given instructions on prevention and treatment and are encouraged to avoid contact with others if they think they have the symptoms.
Most of the students interviewed say they taking the warnings seriously.
Junior Jacob Fink, 21, realizes he could be exposed to the virus, particularly when in a confined space, such as riding the campus shuttle bus.
"I use Germ-X and Purell religiously," Fink said.
Some of the students said they had been sick with what they believed was H1N1 or knew people who had.
"My roommate had the symptoms, but he stayed at home because of the health warnings telling him to self-quarantine," said senior Jesse Anderson, 21.
Although public health officials have stressed the safety and importance of the H1N1 vaccination, some students interviewed -- such as junior Amaris Palmer, 20, a nursing major -- said they will only get the vaccination if it is required.
The students who said they wouldn't get vaccinated say they are concerned about the side effects, despite the repeated assurances from health officials that the vaccine is safe.
"There needs to be more testing. They just released a version so that people will feel safe, but they have not tested it enough," said senior Kayla Chaplin, 21, a nursing major.
But freshman Logan Spung, who lives on campus, said he is concerned about swine flu because of the close quarters in the dormitories. Of the vaccine, he said, "It would be dumb not to take it."
This story was produced by the SIUE mass communications students of Beacon staffer Mary Delach Leonard. Participants in the project included: Darin Atkins, Dusten Bell, Zach Bolbach, Bryan Clemons, John Hanson, Jeff Lumbattis, Brittany Moore, Derek Parris, Katie Pritchard, Tom Conoyer, Anna Dattilo, Jereme Dyson, Patrice Julion, Sarah Kafka, Barton Keip, Mariah Kendall, Adrienne McNeil, Ryan Reams, Cody Rice, Mikaela Sullivan, Elizabeth Van Winkle, James Webb.