The 2017-18 academic year has brought with it an abnormally high number of flu cases. Because of the harsh flu season, the Undergraduate Student Government unanimously passed a resolution to provide influenza vaccines free of charge to all Ohio State undergraduate students.
In the first week of Spring Semester alone, 25 of the 47 administered flu tests at Ohio State came back positive for type-A or type-B flu.
Taken to the USG floor on Feb. 7, the resolution proposes Ohio State provide flu vaccines free to undergraduates in an attempt to minimize the spread of the flu on campus and decrease the number of cases seen. A USG resolution is not implemented into the university’s policies; it is a suggestion of reform.
In line with national trends, the Wilce Student Health Center has seen an exceptionally large number of flu cases on campus this year. Gladys Gibbs, director of Student Health Services, said the flu is still very prevalent on campus late into flu season.
“It’s usually a gradual rise beginning in December, and usually sort of peaks about this time, and then there’s usually a more rapid decline, so I think the decline will be more gradual this year, and go longer into the season,” Gibbs said.
The author of the legislation, Emma Meersman, a fourth-year in public health, said this resolution was put in place to allow students to obtain the vaccination without any financial barriers.
“It would make it a lot easier and probably increase the amount of coverage we have if we were just to provide it free,” she said.
For students who do not have the comprehensive university health insurance, waived university health insurance for their own plan, or are insured through Medicaid or Medicare, Student Health Services might be considered out-of-network, resulting in a $37 charge for the flu vaccine, the resolution stated.
It’s kind of a hassle to have to figure out what places you can go to get it, and out-of-state students [might not] have cars, so even if they wanted to see their family practitioner back home, they couldn’t really do that. —Emma Meersman, fourth-year in public health, sponsor of USG resolution
Meersman said it might be difficult for undergraduate students to find medical practices or health care providers covered by their insurance to find vaccines close to campus if they’re not covered under university insurance.
“It’s kind of a hassle to have to figure out what places you can go to get it, and out-of-state students [might not] have cars, so even if they wanted to see their family practitioner back home, they couldn’t really do that,” Meersman said.
In her resolution research, Meersman found the flu shot cost is not included in student fees, like other utilities and services such as the COTA or student activity fees.
She said Ohio State has “a ton of cost-benefit analyses that have been done on vaccines, specifically flu vaccines” that suggest providing vaccines would be a cost-beneficial measure by the university.
The resolution states the benefits of getting the flu shot would eventually outweigh the costs, citing the flu vaccination not only prevents illness, but prevents students from missing class, performing poorly on assignments, spreading infection, and other hindrances.
“I’m hoping that we can appeal to the university with the costs that we would save from treatment,” Meersman said, “[Missing] even a couple days in school, if you have a heavier course load, can produce significant adverse mental health effects, and then obviously there’s the physical pain of going through the flu.”
Whether it’s paying for the flu shot out of pocket, or being covered by university health insurance, Gibbs said it is still worth it to get the vaccine at this point.
“It is not too late to get the flu shot,” she said, “and wouldn’t it be a shame to have gotten this far through the season and get the flu?”