Zac VanderLey – Staff Writer
Alinda Brouwer pulled her jean jacket close as the wind howled and pushed, tussling her blonde hair every which way. She kept her eyes to the ground in the harsh conditions and moved one foot after the other towards the west side of the De Witt Gymnasium. She pried open the door and forcibly closed it; the wind wanting inside the building as well.
Inhaling a warm breath, she pulled up the symptom tracker on her phone. No and no, she answered. A blue thermometer gun scanned her forehead: 98.7.
Brouwer strode into the De Witt Gymnasium—the hall of athletic heroes transformed into the hall of healing—and sat down on a stool. As a Sioux Center Health nurse prepared a flu shot, Brouwer removed her jean jacket, rolled her flannel sleeve up, and relaxed. A slight pinch twinged her bicep, like the bite of a mosquito, and she was finished, save for the challenge ahead: the incessant wind and pre-winter shivers.
Thursday, October 15, marked the last day of the free flu shots offered on the campus of Dordt University. Other days included the 3rd and 8th of October, where the vaccinations were also administered for five hours each day.
“Our local health partners reached out to us and asked if we would administer flu shots on campus,” Dean of Students Robert Taylor said. “We don’t want the flu to spread amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Many schools across the country, both Christian and non-Christian, provided free flu shots to their campus this year. Dordt administration believed giving and receiving the vaccine offered yet another way to care for one another.
Around 90 students signed up for the first day of flu shots, followed by another 180 the next session, and 360 on the final day of inoculation. A little over half of the student body, at this point, have received a flu vaccine for the year.
“We wish more people would have signed up earlier, but we know students are busy,” Taylor said.
According to the Community Covenant signed by each student before the start of the school year, every individual must receive a flu shot before November 26th should the university require them to. Any exemptions to this ruling must come by “religious or health reasons.” These exceptions should not come lightly, though.
“The belief is in fact religious and is not based merely on philosophical, scientific, moral, personal, or medical opposition to immunizations,” Taylor said.
Still, some students remain skeptical.
“We assume that the flu shot will help. But there’s a cost for everything. I just wonder if it’s the best use of their resources,” senior Tyler Bouma said.
Bouma has not received a flu shot since he was young. He seemed to get sick every time he got the shot, he claimed. He’s not entirely opposed to vaccinations—he has received all his immunizations. But he wishes there could be more of an examination surrounding the evidence.
Each year, the CDC tracks how well the flu vaccine protects against flu illness. And although results vary from year to year, vaccination has been proven time in and time out to reduce the risk of influenza by 40 to 60 percent.
Other people use a fear of needles as an excuse to avoid vaccination, but a nasally administered vaccine helps calm these qualms.
The vaccine also does not contain any fetal tissue in it, as some people believe.
“The behavior socially has changed a lot. People are more skeptical, and we are trying to remove barriers, but people will always have different convictions,” Taylor said.
Many people fear the flu vaccine will infect them with the flu, but the vaccine does not actually contain a live virus—rather a weakened version containing three to four strains of the flu. The immune system recognizes the vaccine as a flu virus, and the body fights it off and develops antibodies for future influenza viruses. When achiness shows up the day after vaccination, the symptom is a sign of the body creating antibodies.
“[The flu] is preventable,” Deb Bomgaars, professor of nursing, said. “Vaccinations are harmless, but the fear upon receiving the vaccines is real.”
Dordt plans on contacting all of those who have not received the vaccine to conduct individual appointments as the November 26 deadline approaches. Taylor respects students’ opinions and believes conversation paves the way to answer questions while gaining empathy.
Although the flu shares symptoms with COVID-19: a fever, cough, and sore throat, Dordt will not quarantine people with the flu. This comes from the advice of the CDC and IDPH.
Alinda Brouwer, a sophomore nursing student, believes people show their own ego when they say they do not care about getting sick.
“It’s a matter of others. Like, what if it spread to your grandmother or a nursing home?” Brouwer said.
When Brouwer’s brother was four years old, he suffered a severe asthma attack and spent ten days in the hospital. His life laid in jeopardy due to several complications. But because of the antibodies he had accumulated through vaccines over the years, his body found a way to heal itself.
“If we can prevent it, then we should.” Brouwer said. “And we can more or less prevent the common flu.”