COVID and flu season is rapidly approaching

SU junior has suffered three separate bouts of COVID; find out what you should be doing to stay healthy this winter
With an improved vaccine to target additional COVID strains, the FDA recommends looking into a booster this fall
With an improved vaccine to target additional COVID strains, the FDA recommends looking into a booster this fall
Hakan Nural – Unsplash

Amid the ongoing COVID-19 endemic and the looming flu season, Stevenson junior Daishawn McQueen symbolizes the respiratory viruses’ destructive potential.

She endured three periods of COVID-19 in 2021, 2022, and 2023, with symptoms resembling a relentless roller coaster — severe chills, chest tightness, and shortness of breath — yet McQueen didn’t require hospitalization.

Enduring illness at home brought added stress, as McQueen feared she would transmit the virus within her household. Her perspective on vaccines evolved significantly. In 2021, while unvaccinated, McQueen’s symptoms were severe, and it took nearly a year for her taste and smell to return.

However, in 2022 and 2023, having received a COVID vaccination, McQueen still grappled with worse symptoms compared to her initial infection. Despite the challenges, she retained her taste and smell and that offered her a glimmer of hope among the chaos of recurring illnesses.

McQueen is one of the many students here at Stevenson University affected by the virus. With the arrival of fall, nursing staff stress the significance of getting the new COVID-19 vaccine and seasonal flu shot for the collective well-being of the entire campus community.

“The vaccine depends solely on the person and their preferences,” McQueen said. “Since I’ve fought COVID on my own three times in total, I don’t feel that a vaccination is necessary for me.” The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s endorsement of the latest COVID-19 vaccine highlights its significance. Despite reduced severity, weekly hospitalizations and deaths in the U.S. persist.

The number of new daily COVID cases has spiked between the months of October and January every year since the pandemic began, further demonstrating the importance of being prepared as the seasons change.

Hospitalizations have been increasing since late summer,” AP News journalists Mike Stobbe and Lauran Neergaard wrote. “Experts worry that immunity from previous vaccinations and infections is fading in many people, and a new shot would save many lives.” Stobbe and Neergaard also noted the Food and Drug Administration’s approval for the updated COVID vaccine for adults and children as young as age 6 months using Pfizer and Moderna. They urge people to get their updated shots to combat effects of new strains, not targeted in prior vaccines.

“The COVID-19 vaccines offered since last year are combination shots targeting the original coronavirus strain and a much earlier Omicron version,” Stobbe and Neergaard wrote. “The FDA gave COVID-19 vaccine makers a new recipe for this fall.”

Along with the latest COVID vaccine, the CDC encourages everyone 6 months and older to get their annual flu shot too, as there is no significant difference in effectiveness or side effects when administering both vaccines simultaneously.

As the CDC and FDA play their part, Stevenson’s Wellness Center follows suit by offering free on-campus vaccinations to students, staff, and faculty.

“We’ve had four vaccine clinics then, and plan to have five clinics in the fall, so we’ll have a total of nine vaccine clinics,” Assistant Vice President of Wellness Center Stephanie L. Carpenter said. “There’s plenty of opportunity for students to get vaccinated.”

Every fall, Carpenter and the Wellness Center collaborate with the Giant pharmacy to hold vaccination stations, alternating between Manning Academic Center and Caves Sports and Wellness Center.

The next session, scheduled for Oct. 17 in the MAC’s first-floor lobby, has been promoted through classroom flyers, the Wellness Center’s Instagram page, and SU alerts for mobile notifications.

Along with Stevenson’s Wellness Center offering COVID and flu vaccinations, they also provide other vaccines to combat other illnesses such as meningitis, marcella, and chicken pox.

“Though we’ve been limited in our COVID booster supply, we plan for them to be more readily available as the season progresses,” Carpenter said. “When we come back for the spring semester, we’ll be anticipating more vaccine doses as well.”

Vaccination clinics also offer nursing students service opportunities. Stevenson alumna Elizabeth Degenford began taking advantage of opportunities to volunteer during her time as a student.

“I personally [volunteered] off campus within the community, but some others helped with them on campus,” Degenford said. “That was to fulfill our service requirement in one of our classes.”

Degenford currently works as a registered nurse in an intensive care unit where COVID-19 and flu vaccinations are required for her residency.

“I know that where I work, they require COVID vaccination and a yearly flu shot, which I have received,” Degenford said. “The same requirements applied to me as a nursing student.”

As Carpenter and Degenford support students, staff, and faculty during the fall, McQueen continues to advocate COVID safety for herself and other Stevenson students.

“I still believe in doing what is best for myself and my health,” McQueen said. “I social distance, keep my mask applied, and practice cleanliness, not only for myself but for the environment around me.”

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