The Director of Employee and Student Health SUNY Upstate Medical University wants Central New Yorker’s to stay ahead of the flu season by getting their shots early. Dr. Jarrod Bagatell says 100 years ago in Syracuse, people were dying at pandemic rates due to extreme flu complications without vaccines. Through his efforts, the medical university implemented a policy in 2017 requiring students to get the flu vaccine. A year later, at the close of the 2017-2018 season, the vaccination rate increased from 77 percent to 85 percent. He hopes the trend continues this year and they're off to a good start.
“Compared to last year, after the first week of our flu prevention campaign, we immunized 850 more people than last year.”
Staff are not required to get the shot but, are strongly encouraged to do so. There are also NYS Health Code requirements stating that health care workers who choose to not get the flu vaccine wear a surgical or procedural mask. Students as part of the 'Flu Crew' also produced a creative and entertaining music video touting the imporance of getting a shot to fend off the flu. The doctor says flu activity can happen anytime between October through May. It’s been declared widespread in recent years from mid-December until the end of the year. So far this season, a Texas boy died from flu complications. Dr. Bagatell says that’s concerning because the flu season typically happens during the winter.
”The vaccine, even though it may not protect you for the strain it was intended to, if there is a subtle change in that; it may mitigate your disease presentation. So it may make the fact that you got the flu a milder case of the flu and you may not get the full blown case of the flu. You may not necessarily end up in the hospital, or, God forbid, dying from the flu.”
The doctor wonders if people would be more inclined to get the flu shot if it was a hypothetical ‘cancer vaccine’ with the same effectiveness.
“What if we had a vaccine that was available that was 100 percent not going to cause the disease, it was safe… and let’s say it was 40 percent effective at preventing cancer and it was covered by your health insurance. Would you get that vaccine?”
The doctor says most people answer yes to his question immediately. He reminds people to cover their coughs, stay at home if they feel sick, to avoid touching their face and wash their hands regularly for 20 seconds. According to statistics released by Blue Cross Blue Shield of CNY, only 1 out of every 3 adults in Upstate New York presently get flu shots.