Penn's annual flu vaccine clinic begins Wednesday following the end of the campus-wide flu vaccine requirement.
The flu clinic — which provides free vaccines to all members of the Penn community — will be hosted in Gimbel Gymnasium in the Pottruck Health and Fitness Center from Oct. 4-6. Penn community members do not need to register for an appointment, and can walk in to receive their vaccination.
This year’s clinic will be “Candy Land” themed and distribute pieces of candy to all attendees. Penn's School of Dental Medicine will also be present and distributing floss.
Last year’s flu clinic vaccinated nearly 12,000 community members — a tally which Wellness at Penn hopes to exceed this year. Chief Wellness Officer Benoit Dubé told The Daily Pennsylvanian that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention used Penn’s campus as an example of a highly effective public health campaign because of the flu clinic’s success.
Ashlee Halbritter, Wellness at Penn’s executive director of public health and well-being, said that this year’s flu prevalence appears to be similar to trends from past years.
“Flu on campus is where it normally is this time of year, which is incredibly low — lower than the national average for now,” Halbritter said.
Dubé added that data from the Southern Hemisphere — which is used to predict the upcoming flu season — demonstrates a high efficacy for this year’s flu vaccine.
“The flu shot has a good track record this year,” Dubé said. “The four variants that they’ve targeted in this year’s flu shot have a greater than 50% efficacy, which is very high for a mass vaccination campaign.”
Penn repealed its flu immunization requirement this year, which was initially implemented during the COVID-19 pandemic. While students are no longer required to be vaccinated against the flu, Halbritter and Dubé hope that students continue to attend the clinic in large numbers.
Dubé explained that, following the removal of many pandemic-era policies, Penn revisited its previous immunization requirements.
“We paired COVID and flu [vaccines] together because of the comorbidity of upper respiratory illness — but prior to the pandemic, the immunization against influenza was not required,” Dubé said. “So as we entered the next phase of the COVID-19 pandemic, we fell back on prior immunization requirements.”
Halbritter suggested that Penn looked at a variety of different organizations’ and agencies’ recommendations in order to decide which policy would be best for college students and campus well-being.
The flu immunization requirement remains in place for clinical students. As a result of their involvement with patients, the clinical schools sometimes need to have immunization requirements beyond those for Penn, according to Halbritter.
Halbritter said that Penn students should continue to prioritize their health.
“When you’re not feeling well, it’s a time to rest when you can, and to slow down when you can, and to take care of yourself, because it’s still very early in the semester,” Halbritter said. “Students have to be willing to stop and assess their bodies for a minute when they start to feel unwell.”