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Flu vaccinations: where, when, why

Students, faculty and staff can be vaccinated at the Student Stores Pharmacy and Campus Health Pharmacy with no appointment required.

A doctor holds a flu shot.

It’s time for your flu vaccination.

With a case of the flu possibly just one or two sneezes away, health care professionals recommend that everyone consider getting a vaccination to protect yourself and others. Don’t let the pandemic stop you.

Dr. Jim Hill, director of the University Employee Occupational Health Clinic, said that there is concern that the pandemic may limit traditional resources for testing for and treating influenza and that people may not get the flu vaccine because they are avoiding health care settings.

However, there may be an upside to all our pandemic precautions.

“Scientifically, this will be an interesting flu season for many reasons, including that the same public health practices of masking, social distancing, limiting social gatherings and staying home if you are sick to reduce the transmission of COVID-19 should reduce the transmission of influenza as both infections are spread by droplets,” Dr. Hill said.

Flu cases in the U.S. often begin to increase in October, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, with peaks between December and February.

To prepare for flu season, the University is offering flu shot clinics beginning Sept. 8. University employees and students can be vaccinated at two campus clinics with no appointment required, and several walk-in clinics will be offered. Medicare plans will not be accepted.

  • Student Stores Pharmacy, third floor, UNC Student Stores. Monday-Friday, 9 a.m.-5 p.m., Saturday 11 a.m.-3 p.m.
  • Campus Health Pharmacy, Campus Health loading dock area between Kenan Stadium and UNC Hospitals. Monday-Friday, 1-5 p.m.
  • University Employee Occupational Health Clinic, by appointment only for University healthcare personnel (including the School of Medicine) and other personnel who are part of the Immunization Review Program. Call the UEOHC at 919-966-9119 to schedule.
  • Walk-in clinics, noon-4 p.m., no advance registration required:
    • Thursday, Sept. 17 – Tent at Polk Place
    • Thursday, Oct. 1 – Tent at Genetic Medicine Building
    • Thursday, Oct. 8 – Breezeway at Genome Sciences Building
    • Thursday, Oct. 15 – Tent at Polk Place
    • Friday, Oct 16. – Tent at Genetic Medicine Building
    • Friday, Oct 23.  – Giles Horney Building.

Most insurances offer flu vaccination with no copay.  Campus Health is in-network with most major insurance plans, including the State Health Plan and Student Blue.  See the Campus Health website for more information about health plans accepted. Campus Health does not accept Medicare plans. Please bring a copy of your insurance card. You will be billed for any out-of-pocket expense as determined by your insurance company. Flu vaccination is available for $40 for those without insurance.

Due to current COVID-19 pandemic and associated restrictions, flu vaccination clinics will be implementing the following to ensure the safety and health of all:

  • Flu clinic staff are required to wear surgical masks, face shields and gloves at all times and do daily COVID-19 symptom monitoring.
  • All flu clinic attendees will be screened for COVID-19 symptoms prior to entry.
  • All flu clinic attendees are required to wear a mask or face covering. If you do not have an appropriate mask, one will be provided.
  • Our waiting areas and flu shot stations will be arranged to accommodate physical distancing of at least 6 feet.
  • Flu shot stations will be disinfected after each patient

There is no co-pay for employees on the State Health Plan or for students and employees insured through Blue Cross Blue Shield, Partners, Aetna, Humana Gold, SummaCare, Advantra Freedom and Medicare Part B. Bring a health plan card and UNC One Card ID to the clinic. Employees and students not on the listed plans can get a vaccination by paying $40.

The importance of flu vaccinations

“Flu vaccine effectiveness in the U.S. has been as high as 60% for the 2010-2011 flu season and as low as 19% for the 2014-2015 flu season,” Hill said. “This does not mean you should not get vaccinated, but highlights that vaccination is only one part of the public health strategy to reduce influenza infections. Vaccination, along with proper handwashing, covering your mouth and nose if you cough or sneeze and staying home if you are sick are all necessary parts to reduce the flu in our communities.”

Preparation for seasonal flu includes looking at flu case data from countries in the Southern Hemisphere experiencing winter to find a vaccine match for currently circulating flu. However, he said that exact comparisons are difficult.

“We will not know if it is a bad flu season in the United States until it is over,” Hill said. “This is why we stress the importance of universal influenza vaccination, along with other proven public health strategies to reduce influenza infections.”

Hill also said that flu vaccinations can help keep resources available for COVID-19 patients by reducing the number of people who may need to be hospitalized for flu-related complications.

The CDC recommends flu vaccinations for everyone 6 months of age and older with rare exceptions. Hill said that pregnant women are a priority group for vaccinations and should get the inactivated influenza vaccine. For people who are allergic to eggs, there are two egg-free influenza vaccines licensed for use in the U.S.

For the campus community

On Carolina’s flu vaccination website, the campus community can find more information about seasonal flu and resources such as flu certifications, a medical contraindication release, religious exemption and a link to the University’s Environmental Health and Safety compliance portal, where employees may keep an immunization record.