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Drew University Wins New Jersey Flu Vaccination Challenge

Drew has highest rate of students receiving the flu vaccine among small colleges

April 2020 – Safety first! Drew University has won the third-annual New Jersey College & University Flu Challenge.

The challenge is a NJ Department of Health initiative that aims to increase flu vaccination on college campuses. With the highest percentage of students reporting they received a flu shot for this flu season, Drew won in the challenge’s small school category in its first year in the competition.

The College of New Jersey (large) and Seton Hall (medium) were the other 2020 winners.

“We held three flu clinics in October and promoted the challenge on our website, in Drew Today, and with posters in the Health Service office, the EC and Commons,” said Joan Galbraith, director of Health Service, who was quick to acknowledge nurse Heather MacDonald for spearheading Drew’s involvement in the challenge.

After receiving their flu shot on campus, students were asked to complete a short survey using a QR code to count towards the competition. Students were asked about getting the vaccine during routine office visits in Health Service and could also fill out the survey if they’d received a flu vaccine off campus.

“When news of the novel coronavirus began to emerge in January, we decided to order an additional supply of flu vaccine to continue to promote it and administer it,” said Galbraith.

“We held another flu clinic in February and ended up giving 80 more vaccines than we did last year,” she said, adding, “we also increased our hand washing campaigns during this time.”

While the statewide recognition—including a traveling trophy—is meaningful, the real impetus behind the push for high rates of vaccination was for campus safety and health.

“Young adults, including college-aged students, tend to have low flu vaccination rates, and the communal setting of college campuses lends itself to making the flu very easy to spread,” said Galbraith. “The flu is so familiar to everyone, so they don’t necessarily take it seriously. Now more than ever, it is important for people to protect themselves from the flu—and by doing so, they are also protecting others around them.”

Given the spread of COVID-19, avoiding the flu is now a top-of-mind issue.

“Unlike COVID-19, we have the means to prevent and treat the flu with vaccination and antiviral treatment,” said Galbraith, who plans on participating in the statewide challenge next year.

“We need to do everything we can to prevent the additional burden on the healthcare system caused by the flu.”

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