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University to provide free flu vaccine to students, employees this fall

To protect the campus community during a particularly dangerous year, Bison Flu Fest preps to immunize up to 3,600

Janel Shoun-Smith | 615.966.7078  | 

On-campus flu shot clinic

With the COVID-19 pandemic continuing through the summer and the fall flu season around the corner, Lipscomb University has made plans to ensure that every university and Lipscomb Academy employee and every university student at Lipscomb has access to a free flu vaccine administered on campus this fall.

Bison Flu Fest, coordinated by Lipscomb’s chapter of the American Pharmacists Association-Academy of Student Pharmacists (APhA-ASP) and University Health Services, will set up a two-day massive flu clinic in the Allen Arena concourse on Sept. 23 and 24, said Sarah Uroza, associate professor of pharmacy and faculty sponsor for the student group.

On Saturday, Sept, 26, there will be a drive-through flu clinic for employees who are working remotely, she said.

Each year this student group, along with some students and staff from the nursing and physician assistant studies programs, coordinates and participates in numerous flu immunization clinics throughout the fall, resulting in thousands of flu shots provided throughout Middle Tennessee.

But this year, being like no other before as the COVID-19 pandemic continues, the group will focus on providing every person on campus, up to 3,600 people, with free flu immunizations on top of additional community efforts. Given the current health situation, Lipscomb recognized the need to invest in ensuring that enough flu vaccine is available for the entire campus to be immunized against the flu.

“With hospitals and other health care providers already committed or stretched caring for COVID-19 patients, it is imperative that hospitals not be overloaded with flu patients this season. Not to mention the potentially disastrous effects to individuals who may become infected with both COVID-19 and this year’s strain of the flu at the same time,” said Kevin Eidson, director of health and wellness.

“Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, reducing the spread of respiratory illnesses, like flu, this fall and winter is more important than ever,” states the website for the Centers for Disease Control. “CDC has worked with vaccine manufacturers to have extra flu vaccine available this flu season. CDC recommends getting a flu vaccination in September or October but getting vaccinated anytime during the flu season can help protect you.”

Prior to 2020, Lipscomb University has provided free flu shots for faculty and staff, but the cost of shots for students needed to be covered by their personal insurance. Despite various opportunities to obtain flu shots on campus, both by the university’s Health Services and the APhA-ASP, less than 350 people took advantage of the on-campus flu shots last year.

Uroza and Eidson are planning to change that this year. Uroza is recruiting 200 volunteers from Lipscomb’s various health science programs to run Bison Flu Fest. The clinic layout in the arena concourse will allow for social distancing, and the actual process of paperwork and receiving the immunization should only take about 10 minutes, Uroza said.

In addition to protecting the campus for this flu season, the Bison Flu Fest immunization clinic will serve as a trial run for providing a future COVID-19 vaccine to the campus community, she said.

“At Lipscomb we are strongly committed to playing an active role in our community, and in 2020 that means keeping as many people on our campus healthy as is possible this fall,” said Eidson. “For the good of not just our students, but for the good of the entire Nashville community, Lipscomb has invested in making sure the threat of infection is minimized on our campus in the coming months.” 

The Bison Flu Fest design is based on Vanderbilt University’s Flulapalooza, which annually immunizes 14,000 employees in 12 hours, said Uroza. Lipscomb’s APhA-ASP students and faculty have participated in Flulapalooza for several years.

This past spring, the 2018-19 APhA-ASP chapter was honored with a national award for its Operation Immunization efforts that resulted in providing 7,158 influenza immunizations in the fall of 2018.