This flu season was declared the worse flu epidemic — with the child death toll now reaching 53 people — since 2009’s swine flu, an H1N1 virus. However, there seems to be no concrete cure to stop the spread. Although NYU has not been too affected so far, our community is at risk because the flu has yet to peak. NYU’s Student Health Center offers free vaccinations for all students, but this vaccination has never been on the list of compulsory vaccinations for student attendance. The severity of this flu season begs the question, should the flu vaccination become mandatory?
This season, people have doubts surrounding the vaccination, seeing that the 2017 to 2018 effectivity rate has been estimated at 17 percent. Flu vaccinations usually turn ineffective since the vaccines are viruses grown in chicken eggs and then killed, making them inactive. The body is then trained to prevent the virus from attaching to cells, without any serious risk since the virus is inactive. The problem is that during their growth in the egg, the vaccines are given time to mutate from their original structure. The H3N2 strain mutates at a faster rate than others, and does not have the same structure as the virus it was designed to replicate.
While the current effectivity rate may sway some otherwise, this year’s H3N2 strain should come as a sign that flu shots should be mandatory for NYU students. This influenza is so threatening because it has simultaneously hit everywhere in the country. NYU’s diverse student population doesn’t just come from all over the country, but from all around the world. Our students are practically vessels for virus transaction, especially considering that we all have returned from our winter breaks bringing back memories and germs galore.
Last spring, NYU School of Medicine Psychiatry Professor Leonore Tiefer was fired because she had not yet been vaccinated, which is against NYU Langone’s policy. This demonstrates that requiring the flu vaccine is not a foreign concept within NYU administration. NYU also requires that students receive the measles, mumps and rubella vaccines, as well as the meningococcal meningitis vaccine, showing that the university not opposed to making vaccinations mandatory for students.
Yes, the flu vaccine is not as consistently effective as those aforementioned vaccines; however, if it improves the chances even marginally better that members of our community will be healthy, then why shouldn’t NYU require it? According to The New York Times, even if a flu vaccine reaches only one percent of absolute risk reduction, one in every 100 people will be immune. With around 56,000 students, faculty and staff members, a vaccine would hypothetically prevent 560 members of our community from getting the flu. If we combine mandatory vaccination with increased sanitation efforts, we will have at least some protection against future waves of the flu, rather than leaving the NYU community out in the cold.
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A version of this appeared in the Monday, February 5 print edition. Email Tyler at email@example.com.