No crowd at vaccine station

By TaylorGleason

Chicago’s public H1N1 vaccination services have been crowded and heavily guarded. Many publications report that doctors throughout the city are constantly running out of vaccine. Healthy, older adults have been asked to let pregnant women,  children and young adults get vaccinated first.

Cases in the U.S.  of the pandemic H1N1 influenza hit a record high in October. But here at Columbia, besides about four people, nurses and a large pile of cookies on the table, the vaccination service room was barren last week.

“We have probably vaccinated about 1,000 students. I am very disappointed,” said Bob Koverman, associate vice president of Campus Safety and Security. “We expected five or six thousand … I don’t know that there’s any more that we could do in terms of getting the word out.”

Mary Lou Wade  went to get her vaccination on Nov. 9 at Columbia. Wade teaches Oral Expression at Columbia and Nov. 9 was her first chance to get vaccinated because Columbia opened their free services to faculty and staff.

“I encourage my students to come … this is the perfect opportunity; it’s not that crowded and it’s free,” Wade said of the vaccination room.

On four occasions, the vaccinations have been administered in the room that was formerly the Writing Center on the ground level of the 33 E. Congress Parkway Building. Columbia’s vaccine supply comes in spurts from the Chicago Department of Public Health, Koverman said.

According to Koverman, it was decided on Nov. 12 that vaccinations will no longer be given in the 33 E. Congress Parkway Building because of the low turnout. The Student Health Center will now administer them and announcements are to come regarding when and how this service will be offered.

The Student Health Center declined to comment due to a number of students awaiting attention.

Koverman said Columbia does not screen for the H1N1 virus, but there have been “about two dozen” reported cases of influenza-like symptoms on campus.

The Chicago Department of Public Health updates its Web site with weekly information on H1N1 cases, said Dr. Stephanie Black, medical director of Acute Disease Surveillance.

“In Chicago, we have had 299 hospitalizations and seven deaths since Aug. 30. The median age of the deaths is 43, but the highest rate of hospitalization is in people that are age 0 to 4,” Black said.

Throughout the nation, Black said patients with H1N1 cover the majority of influenza-related hospitalizations.

Black said H1N1 prevalence is currently higher than any seasonal flu in the past 50 years. She said that she believes the city has put in its best effort to fight the H1N1 virus, but because the flu is unpredictable, people should continue to get vaccinated.

“By no means are we on the down slope; we are continuing to see [H1N1] rates increase in Chicago,” Black said.

She added that two weeks ago, 11.8 percent of all people who went to the emergency room went in for influenza-like illnesses. Last week the number increased to 16.6 percent of all patients.

“The activity in Chicago has continued to rise consecutively over the past five weeks,” Black said.

She added that pandemic flus usually come in “waves of 8 to 12 weeks,” but it is hard to predict if H1N1 will return in the spring.

However, the CDPH does expect that seasonal flu will become more prominent from February through April or May, Black said.

“We don’t know that [H1N1] is peaking yet,” Black said, and numbers could continue to rise.

Wade said she has seen an increase in illness-related absences among her students this semester, but she doesn’t know what they’ve been sick with because they rarely tell her.

Earlier in the semester, students were encouraged to stay home when they felt ill and professors were advised to have work ready for students to complete from home in case they couldn’t come to class.

“It’s hard because most of my class depends on participation, but I am sympathetic to the people that are sick, so I have arranged a makeup class for some of the sick people,” Wade said.

Koverman said Columbia is getting a lot of calls from parents asking if the school is administering the vaccine.

“There certainly is a chance that students could be getting vaccinations at other locations, but it’s not likely,” Koverman said.

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