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Kentucky Kernel

The Student News Site of University of Kentucky

Kentucky Kernel

The Student News Site of University of Kentucky

Kentucky Kernel

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Editorial: Students have the power to cultivate a healthy campus

A dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine is injected into a patient’s arm. Illustration by Abbey Cutrer

COVID-19 is no longer a public health emergency, but that does not equate to the end of it in our lives. It is now up to you as an individual to take preventive initiatives.

Along with your efforts against COVID, influenza (flu) season is also upon us, making it crucial to take the measures necessary to keep yourself and those around you safe.

With support from the World Health Organization (WHO), the Kentucky Kernel believes there is no better solution than getting vaccinated.

“When you get a vaccine, your immune system responds. Immunization currently prevents 3.5-5 million deaths every year from diseases,” according to WHO’s website.

Currently, there are three COVID-19 vaccines authorized by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). These include the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna, which are mRNA vaccines, and Novavax, a protein subunit vaccine. Another vaccine you may recognize, the Johnson and Johnson/Janssen vaccine, is no longer available in the U.S. as of May 6, 2023.

Now, where do you get these vaccines?

In 2021, students were able to get their COVID-19 vaccinations at a UK HealthCare clinic located at Kroger Field, but this location was closed after three months and over 240,000 administered doses, UK Police Chief Joe Monroe told WKYT.

Monroe said in collaboration with UK Crisis Management Response that they felt a mass vaccination site was unnecessary due to a decrease in demand.

The university’s 2021 decision should not convince you as an individual that vaccines are irrelevant.

In fact, Team Kentucky has reported 2,514 positive COVID-19 cases in Fayette County since the end of the virus being a public health emergency on May 11, 2023.

And despite the lack of options on the university’s campus, there are still many places that offer vaccinations for students.

UK HealthCare has multiple locations that provide COVID-19 vaccinations, including the Kentucky Clinic Pharmacy, University Health Pharmacy and other retail UK pharmacies across Lexington.

Once you travel to a vaccination site, COVID-19 vaccines are free for everyone, which ensures you do not have to stretch your budget for protection.

Along with the COVID-19 vaccine, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also recommends most people to get an annual flu vaccination.

According to the Lexington-Fayette County Health Department (LFCHD), about 80% of the 3,472 lab-confirmed flu cases during the 2022-23 season in Lexington were people who did not get vaccinated.

Not getting vaccinated could lead to a larger risk of spreading it to others, with the possibility of them having worse symptoms and being sick for even longer. Even so, who would want to be stuck in their bed, missing classes, finals and even social events because of it?

To resolve such a problem, there are multiple methods and variations of the flu vaccine, which the CDC said can be administered alongside the COVID-19 vaccine in the same visit.

Standard flu shots are available at all UK retail pharmacies, but pricing will vary depending on your insurance policy or lack thereof.

In past initiatives by the university, flu vaccinations were not only encouraged but required for students.

In 2020, students who lived on or visited campus had to provide proof of a flu vaccination, and the university itself had multiple on-campus locations that administered vaccines free of charge for students who could not pay the out of pocket fee.

UK had a very similar initiative in 2021 with multiple weeks of free flu vaccines for students, faculty and staff at on campus locations.

Although these vaccinations are not mandatory, UK spokesperson Jay Blanton said the university agrees with the importance of getting vaccinated.

“We will strongly encourage members of our community to get shots for both the flu and COVID, and we are preparing to make both shots readily available on campus,” Blanton said.

Blanton said the university does not have an exact date or timeline, so students will have to check the UK Pharmacy Services page to find the most up-to-date locations, hours and services.

However, Blanton said the university plans on pushing communication and information to students and the community.

Vaccines are important, and those who are able should be prioritizing up-to-date flu immunizations as well as COVID-19 vaccinations and boosters.

Alongside being vaccinated, standard practices should be taken during flu season.

The best practices for prevention, according to John Hopkins Medicine, include washing your hands often, keeping coughs and sneezes contained, considering masks in crowded spaces, avoiding those who are sick and staying at home or away from others when you are feeling under the weather.

These may seem like common sense, but they work.

These vaccinations and best practices are recommended because they help prevent and stop the spread of infectious diseases like COVID-19 and the flu.

As a college student, it can sometimes seem easier to shrug off these illnesses because, for many of us, these may just be colds that put us in our beds for a couple of days. However, there are more people on our campus and in our community than us.

There are students with autoimmune diseases, there are faculty and staff at ages where COVID-19 and the flu can turn serious quickly and there are people that may not be able to protect themselves through vaccinations. The list goes on and on.

At the end of the day, it is up to each and every one of us to stay safe and healthy, not only for our individual benefit but also for our campus community as a whole.

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