Hospital braces for H1N1, urges students to prepare

By Tiffany Thorne , Staff Writer

The injectable H1N1 virus vaccines arrived in Utah last week, but there’s a disparity between the University Hospital and U students’ reactions to protecting themselves.

College students ages 19 to 24, particularly those in group-living situations, are among the higher-priority demographics the vaccine is meant for, including young children, health care and emergency workers and pregnant women.

There’s not going to be enough of the vaccine to go around, so health departments are targeting those groups, said Chantelle Turner, spokeswoman for the U Hospital, which is shifting its schedules around and vaccinating its employees.

But some U students are dragging their feet to get vaccinated.

“I don’t think I’m going to,” said Lucas Schroeder, an undeclared sophomore. “I never had the (H1N1) flu in the past, so I don’t think I need to.”

The vaccine is free. Although a few local clinics might bill students for their services, most will not. Students should call ahead for a better idea of how long it will take to receive the vaccine once they arrive, because the wait varies by day, time and location.

As to the success of the vaccine, the Canadian Medical Association Journal cites the drug as extremely effective, though a delay in receiving the vaccine can dilute its overall effectiveness.

But some students, such as Alan Thomas, a senior in computer science, still aren’t interested. Nor are they worried8212;despite the U Hospital taking measures to protect itself against the virus.

Per federal mandate, its employees must get the vaccine shot. They’re also planning ahead in case there is a huge influx of cases.

“We have our staff doing double backup in order to call them in at a moment’s notice if we get overwhelmed,” Erik Barton, head of the hospital’s emergency department, told KSL.

As always, the U is encouraging students to practice good hygiene. If students feel they are coming down with the flu, the Salt Lake Valley Health Department is advising them not to go directly to a hospital. Instead, the department wants them to call their doctor to see if they would be better served by going in for a visit. The department also advises students to stay at home until they are symptom-free for 24 hours.

There is no H1N1 vaccine currently available through the Student Health Center, but the U recommends students consult the center with any questions they have about the vaccine or the virus, according to an e-mail sent Oct. 12.

The vaccine is also not available to students from the U Hospital, Turner said.

Marty Shaub, assistant vice president for audit and risk services, is heading the U’s Pandemic Task Force to assess what other ways the U can help its faculty, staff and students deal with flu season.

[email protected]

Richard Payson/The Daily Utah Chronicle

The University Hospital will soon vaccinate all of its employees with the injectable H1N1 virus vaccine.