According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the single best way to protect against the flu is to get vaccinated each year. In 2016-2017, for example, flu vaccination prevented an estimated 5.3 million influenza illnesses, 2.6 million influenza-associated medical visits and 85,000 influenza-associated hospitalizations. Still, a survey conducted in November 2018 by the University of Chicago’s National Opinion Research Center found that 41 percent of adults did not intend to get a flu shot that year – even though this seasonal infectious disease kills 300,000 to 500,000 people annually.
On Oct. 11, first- and second-year DMU osteopathic medical students sought to counter that, while also learning themselves about vaccines and getting some much-welcome hands-on medical training.
The University’s chapter of the Student Osteopathic Medical Association (SOMA) partnered with the Preventive Medicine Club, the Pediatrics Club and the Student Government Association to host an event in which students gained information and insights on vaccines from Marie Nguyen, Ph.D., professor of microbiology and immunology, and Marianka Pille, M.D., a pediatrician and associate professor of specialty medicine. Under the guidance of DMU Clinic nurses and staff, students practiced administering flu shots, first on oranges and then on each other.
“This event was inspired by two main things. First, we spend so much time on theoretical medicine in the first two years, I wanted to increase the amount of tangible medicine,” says Joe Metzger, D.O.’22, who proposed the idea with the support of SOMA Vice President Alyssa Averhoff, D.O.’22, and Davis Chambers, president of the D.O. Class of 2022.
“Second, we had a measles outbreak in Iowa earlier this year due to under-vaccination,” Joe adds. “As medical students, it is important we learn how to navigate vaccine hesitancy.”
He emphasized the importance of “going with our patients” who might be reluctant or concerned to obtain vaccines, rather than criticizing them. At the event, students could show their enthusiastic support of vaccination by taking and posting selfies using the U.S. Surgeon General’s hashtags, #flufighters and #Vax2Protect.
The CDC recommends that everyone six months of age and older, with rare exceptions, get the flu vaccination. More information is available on its website.