The University of Pennsylvania's Student Health Service Flu Clinic saw an over 50 percent increase in the total number of students vaccinated at the three-day clinic, which offered free flu shots for the first time this year.
The annual flu clinic, organized by Student Health Service and Campus Health, vaccinated an unprecedented total of about 10,000 people last week, an increase from last year’s total of 6,400 people. The year prior, 5,420 people were vaccinated.
“Every year, our goal is to increase the number of people that we have vaccinated,” said Director of Campus Health Ashlee Halbritter.
Every hour, about 500 people were vaccinated. Halbritter said efficiency is one of the core components of the flu clinic.
“We were thrilled that even with the increase in attendance this year, our through-put time — or the amount of time it takes you to go through flu clinic and come out the other side vaccinated — was still between five and six minutes,” she said.
Halbritter said Campus Health is still trying to determine the core cause for the unprecedented turnout. Campus Health also plans to look at expanding specifically the number of undergraduates who receive the flu vaccine.
“Undergraduates turned out in record numbers this year, but they still turned out less than graduate students,” Halbritter said.
Last week, several emails from the University announced that for the first time, the flu clinic was free for all Penn students, faculty, staff, and postdoctoral students. Previously, students not under the Penn Student Insurance Plan had to pay $25 for the vaccine and fill out a form to potentially get reimbursed.
College sophomore Antonino Grillo liked the convenience of the flu clinic, including the fact that the shot was free and participants only had to bring their PennCards to receive one.
“They said it would only be five minutes, and they lived up to the expectation,” Grillo said.
Another possible cause of the turnout could be the large publicity campaign.
Campus Health rolled out a large ad campaign that included "Friends"-themed posters and social media posts. Additionally, the Undergraduate Assembly and the Vice Provost for Undergraduate Life sent emails to students reminding them about the clinic.
“There were signs everywhere that the flu clinic was in Houston Hall,” College freshman Lauren Traas said, “and also I got a lot of emails. So it’s like, okay, I get it.”
Like Grillo, Traas said her experience at the clinic was fast and easy. She also agreed that the flu shot being free was a factor in her decision to get one at the clinic.
Overall, Student Health Service director Giang Nguyen said this year’s clinic was “the most successful vaccine clinic we’ve done.”
Halbritter emphasized the important role of the flu vaccine in public health. Halbritter said, “It’s really the only thing we have available to help reduce and prevent the spread of flu.”