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Student Health Services distributes flu shots to Penn Students. (File Photo)

Five minutes. Your PennCard. Zero dollars. That’s all it takes to help protect yourself against cold and flu season.

This year, Penn's annual flu clinic that administers flu vaccines is free for all Penn students, faculty, staff, and post-doctorate students. This is a shift from previous years, when students could only receive free shots through the flu clinic if they were under the Penn Student Insurance Plan.

“Your busy schedule is often one of the biggest barriers to getting a flu vaccine,” Campus Health Director Ashlee Halbritter said. “But we’re hoping that by removing the cost barrier as well, we can get many more Penn students out and vaccinated to better protect the entire population.”

Many advertisements for the clinic still publicize the previous policy that students not under PSIP have to pay $25 for a vaccine, as Student Health Service announced the new free shot policy on Tuesday.

SHS Executive Director Giang Nguyen said it is SHS's hope to continue providing free vaccinations during flu clinic in future years.  

This year, the clinic is taking place from Wednesday through Friday in Bodek Lounge in Houston Hall. To vaccinate as many people as possible, this SHS effort also boasts a short wait time of five minutes with no appointment necessary, Nguyen said. 

In order to minimize the amount of time the vaccination takes, Nguyen recommended that students wear clothes that allow easier access to their upper arms. Halbritter also said over email that around lunchtime, from about 11:45 a.m. to 1:15 p.m., the clinic is usually busiest and wait times are longest — but the wait time is usually no longer than 15 minutes even then.

Photo from Mowa Li

Halbritter said that performing arts groups, the Penn Band, and the Quaker mascot may show up this year as well. In addition, there will be giveaways for clinic attendees.

“We understand that shots are scary for a lot of people, so we do really try to make it fun,” Halbritter said.

That fun spirit can be seen in this year’s ad campaign for the flu clinic, the theme of which is based on the television show, Friends. These posters follow the trend from last year, when flu clinic posters adapted the logo of the TV show, Stranger Things.

Last year, the flu clinic vaccinated 6400 people, an unprecedented number for the flu clinic. Halbritter hopes that this year, the turnout will be even larger.

Wharton freshman Danny Dontoh said he felt the shift to making the vaccinations free for all students was overdue. 

“I’m definitely going to go on Friday,” Dontoh said. “I have five minutes of spare time.”

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