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Opinion: Expand and promote on-campus vaccinations

Bringing health care to students is a great step toward accessible well-being
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ZAHRA DANAEI/THE VARSITY
ZAHRA DANAEI/THE VARSITY

It’s that time of year again. As lecture halls fill with sounds of coughing, sneezing, and sniffling, courtesy of students who refuse to cover their germ-laden mouths in class, you can be sure that flu season is upon us.

As a child, I dreaded going to the doctor and getting stabbed in the arm with an obnoxiously long needle — and honestly, I still do. However, one thing I do appreciate is how easy it is to go in to my local walk-in clinic and get vaccinated. This ease of access — a privilege that many do not have — saves me tons of time.

The availability of immunizations on campus is a huge step toward establishing health care that is both equitable and accessible.

For commuter students like myself, the act of getting a flu shot has become an afterthought. When I’m commuting an hour and a half to get to class, where I’ll be from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm, when will I find the time to get a flu shot?

However, this November, I was able to get my flu shot after just a two-minute walk to Sidney Smith Hall. Instead of having to miss a lecture — or worse yet, a tutorial quiz — I was immunized in just a few minutes.

While the university has taken a step in the right direction, there are still a number of ways that administration can improve the availability and awareness of these programs.

For example, the lack of advertising was astounding. I only heard about the flu shots through word of mouth, which, given the university’s resources, is not a very effective method for conveying this information.

U of T should further utilize online resources such as social media posts to communicate these beneficial programs to students. As of the time of writing, U of T’s Instagram account has roughly 105,000 followers. By amplifying the presence of on-campus immunizations, U of T could foster a larger turnout for next year. Increasing the total number of students who are able to get their flu shot ultimately helps the entire school community.

Moreover, in-person advertising, such as an information booth outside Sidney Smith Hall, would also increase general awareness of these vaccination areas.

Additionally, in order to increase ease of access for students living in residence, it would be specifically helpful to have immunization centres inside colleges. It’s important to keep in mind that these are students who might be taking responsibility of their own health for the first time ever. Personally, if St. Michael’s College hosted pop-up immunization stations at Brennan Hall, I would certainly take advantage of this opportunity.

Bringing accessible health care to the student body, rather than expecting students to access it outside of campus, has been a positive development for U of T students, especially commuters. Moving forward, we must continue to expand these efforts, not only through increased advertising, but also by diversifying the locations of on-campus flu shots beyond just a few near the centre of campus.

Vaccinations are crucial in ensuring that student health is maintained. Complications that arise with failing health impede physical wellness and academic functionality. Ensuring that students are able to prevent illnesses in a free and accessible manner gives everyone more time to study for those awful finals that are coming up.

Angad Deol is a first-year Life Sciences student at St. Michael’s College.