Now that swine flu cases have been reported in each state countrywide, the College is continuing with its plans of prevention and isolation, though the planned vaccination protocol has been delayed due to a shortage of the H1N1 vaccine. So far, 15 students at the College have been isolated this fall with flu symptoms, according to Ruth Harrison, director of health services.
Harrison said that of the 15 students, none remain in isolation at this point. The isolation of the students followed the standard procedure that the College adopted through discussions and planning among the members of the administration during the summer. Harrison said that the Mount Hope facility remains a contingency plan but has not been used thus far.
Since the outbreak of the H1N1 virus last spring, the College has been emphasizing the importance of prevention. Although it was announced that students would likely have priority in receiving the H1N1 vaccine for free during October, Harrison is at this point unsure if or when that will happen. “I don’t have a date yet for vaccine delivery, nor have I been notified of the number of the doses that we will receive,” she said. “It is not definite that we will receive any [vaccines].”
The New York Times reported last week that there has been a general delay and shortages in supplying the vaccine around the country. On Oct. 25, the Times stated that the spread rate of the virus has surpassed the rate of distribution of the vaccine. The Center for Infectious Disease and Policy reported that Health and Human Services (HHS) officials predicted that 45 million vaccines would be distributed in mid-October. However, as of Oct. 20, only 12.8 million doses were available. While HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said that vaccines would be more readily available in November, Harrison said that she has not yet received word from the Massachusetts Department of Health as to when the College will receive them.
While H1N1 vaccines remain on hold, a flu clinic for seasonal flu vaccines took place on Oct. 7 in Paresky. Harrison reported that approximately 300 students received the vaccine at the clinic. However, the lengthy line that formed disappointed many and some students had to wait for hours to get shots. Harrison explained that the longer wait was due to organizational setbacks. The company that the Health Center had contracted planned to send three nurses to give the vaccine but two got lost driving to the College and arrived late.
Harrison said that the Health Center currently has no seasonal flu vaccines. For those who still want to receive flu shots, Harrison recommended that students look elsewhere. “Students can Google ‘seasonal flu locator’ to look for a clinic in the area, but as of now, I believe that all clinics are on hold,” she said.