As the holiday season kicks into full swing, so does the dreaded flu season.
With busy schedules and little money, many college students choose to opt out of getting vaccinated. Up to 20 percent of individuals in the U.S. get the flu every year, with 200,000 being hospitalized and several thousands dying from flu-related complications, according to a 2016 National Foundation for Infectious Diseases report.
One group of human biology students collaborated on a semester-long project to raise awareness of influenza and advocate for flu vaccinations. To grab the attention of IU students, the group partnered with one of the most well-known spots on campus: Kilroy’s Bar and Grill on Kirkwood.
“We wanted to target people like us,” senior Ally Graziani said. “So we asked ourselves, ‘What do we love? We love ‘Roys.’”
All throughout the night of Dec. 7, Kilroys distributed stamps on attendees’ hands that said, “Get your flu shot! KOK cares,” and placed fliers throughout the bar listing five advantages to getting a flu shot, such as the potential savings on healthcare.
“Flu shot: $20 Hospital stay: $7000 (sic),” the fliers read.
Throughout Bloomington, there are a variety of places where students can go to get vaccinated. The IU Health Center, as well as stores such as Kroger and CVS, take walk-in appointments where patients can usually get in and out within half an hour, Graziani said. Some places even offer flu shots for free with most insurances.
Senior Brian Moreno said raising awareness of influenza is important to the group because the studies they examined showed college students exhibit a very low flu vaccination rate.
According to the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases report, between eight and 39 percent of students on college campuses receive annual flu vaccinations, which is lower than average and significantly lower than the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services “Healthy People 2020” goal of 70 percent.
“We as college students are all in close quarters with roommates and share drinks at bars,” he said. “There are all of these factors that can easily spread disease, yet we aren’t taking any precautions.”
Kilroy’s bar manager Bill Phan said he and his staff were happy to participate because the majority of their customers are students.
“We want to ensure that our customers are knowledgeable about treating themselves, instead of going out and getting everyone around them sick or not being able to go out and enjoy themselves,” Phan said in an email.
In addition to partnering with Kilroy’s to specifically target students, Graziani said they wanted to give back to the place that has been so good to them, despite the negative stigma surrounding the safety of bars.
“I think in a society where a lot of bad things have been happening with bars, it’s really cool that they care about the healthcare of their patrons,” she said.