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Opinion

Free vaccinations would encourage wellness

STORY BY TIM WEBBER

Tim Webber can be reached at timothy.webber@drake.edu and @HelloTimWebber

Tim Webber can be reached at timothy.webber@drake.edu and @HelloTimWebber

If you left Des Moines for your winter break, congratulations, you avoided what WebMD described as one of the “sickest” areas of the country.

WebMD combed through its search statistics to determine where in the country the flu had the biggest impact. The region containing Des Moines and Ames came in third.

But instead of a bronze medal, Des Moines has been rewarded with lots of coughing, fever and headaches.

While I haven’t ventured far off campus yet this semester, I can only assume that the rest of Des Moines is an apocalyptic, “Walking Dead”-style wasteland.

“Ha, that’s pretty funny,” you probably thought, which is exactly the problem.

None of us take the flu seriously, even though it kills half a million people each year. And that’s fair enough, because in an industrialized nation like the United States, most of those deaths are people over 65 or young children.

There’s not much for a college student to worry about. So, why get a flu shot?

For a brief moment, let’s change the situation.

Imagine that every time you go outside, there exists the threat of a flying lion that could swoop down and eat you. You’d probably be terrified and do everything you could to avoid an untimely death.

Now imagine that it’s 20 years later, and you have not yet experienced death by flying lion. Even though the lions eat hundreds of thousands of people a year, they mostly prey on the weak.

Because the flying lions are now an ever-present threat, they’ve become a part of life and you’ve mostly forgotten about them. Kind of like the flu.

Sure, every once in a while, the metaphorical flying lion will make an appearance, but it typically only results in a few terrible days of illness- nothing life-threatening.

However, if we let our guard down, there’s always a chance the flu could swoop back in and cause thousands more unnecessary deaths.

The flu can change from year to year, and some types are worse than others. There will be several global pandemics during our lifetimes, and each of those will kill millions of people.

Flu shots are generally a good idea, even if it’s only to provide a little protection from the illness.

In addition,  flu shots help protect everyone. They’re especially important if you work with the elderly or young children.

But there’s another problem. The student health center charges $20 for flu shots, and that’s money that most students aren’t willing to pay.

It’s tough for college students to justify spending $20 on something that isn’t really needed for us to survive, especially when it doesn’t always work as intended.

The dominant strain of this year’s flu virus wasn’t even included in this year’s vaccine, so many people who did get flu shots still wound up getting sick.

The student health center needs to do something about the cost of a flu shot. Tuition is increasing again next year. Surely $20 of that increase could go towards a flu shot.

I’ve got nothing against new basketball practice facilities, but student health is kind of important too.

Another option would be to just go all the way to the government. Of the things our taxes are spent on, “not dying” should be pretty high on that list.

There’s really no excuse for charging someone $20 to protect them from something that kills half a million people worldwide annually.

Ultimately, we’re all at fault for letting the flu permeate through Des Moines.

Consider this: What if the CDC was able to produce an Ebola vaccine? People would be flocking to get it, even if it cost $20, $50 or even $100.

At the same time, the government would be roundly criticized for charging for a valuable protection against such a dangerous disease.

Two people have died from Ebola in the United States.

In most years, well over 20,000 people die from the flu in the United States.

Shouldn’t we all be doing more to prevent those deaths?

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1 Comment

  1. Jackie Ye February 9, 2015

    Overall, this is a very good message about lowering prices to encourage a higher vaccination rate in the Drake community.

    I would like to add that as all students are supposed to have health insurance at Drake, some insurance plans allow people to get the flu vaccine, depending on the type, at no charge at some pharmacies determined by your insurance company. There are some insurance plans that think the same way already: preventative services at no charge will help encourage wellness and thus avoid additional costs to doctors’ appointments and hospitalizations. Therefore, I highly encourage others to explore the extent of how much insurance will cover the flu vaccine.

    However, not all insurance plans are created equal. Neither are the choices of flu vaccine that are available or each person. When some insurance plans don’t cover the flu vaccine to our liking, then it’s a good idea to visit the Drake Student Health Center. At best, maybe it would be a good idea that the most basic flu vaccine (the one with three flu dead strains injected into the muscle) to be 100% covered by student tuition because this type of flu vaccine is most widely available in the market and manufactured by many pharmaceutical industries.

    There are some exceptions to which the most basic flu vaccine may not sit well (and this is not an exclusive list; more is found at cdc.gov): people who fear needles, people who have severe egg allergies, and people with immunodeficiency disorders. There are other flu vaccinations to accommodate these circumstances, but they are generally more expensive because of rules of economics. The flu vaccine as a nasal spray only comes in as four weak flu strains this year (in general, adding another strain increases price), and Flublok for patients with severe egg allergies is still relatively new in the market that the supply for this is low, which will raise its price. I highly doubt that the idea of covering all sorts of flu shots available will be feasible next year until the flu vaccine market is leaning towards our favor.

    This is a great start in addressing how our investment in wellness is important as a Drake student. Hopefully our Drake community will continue to strive to be one of the healthiest states in the nation!

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