Palo Alto High School's News and Features Publication

Verde Magazine

Verde Magazine

Verde Magazine

Editorial: Make student flu shots available on campus

Art: Sabela Chelba

Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, the number of people receiving the influenza vaccine has steeply declined, according to the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The pre-pandemic flu vaccination rate in youth was 62.2%, but by the 2022-2023 season, only 55.1% of children had received the vaccine.

Making flu vaccines available to students and staff on campus, similar to the distribution of COVID-19 vaccines at Palo Alto High School in 2021, would likely decrease the prevalence of the flu virus on campus. Verde urges the Palo Alto Unified School District to provide on-campus flu vaccinations to improve access for students.

Other districts have seen success in similar programs: Oakland Unified School District distributed free flu vaccines to students and staff on campuses every fall between 2014 and 2019. The program, Shoo the Flu, partnered with the Alameda County Public Health Department and the Oakland Unified School district to administer nearly 45,000 vaccines.

PAUSD Health Services Coordinator Rosemarie Dowell said that comfort is influential in convincing someone to receive a vaccine.

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“It [if the vaccination clinic] is in a location that people know and they’re familiar with … that cuts down on some of the anxiety if they are nervous about getting shots,” Dowell said.

Usually, children in the U.S. get vaccinated at their pediatrician’s office, a location children visit much less frequently than school. Not only is providing the flu shot on campus more convenient, but students will be more comfortable because they know the environment there.

“I definitely think convenience is always super helpful in encouraging vaccination,” Dowell said. “That was why we decided to hold the COVID vaccine clinics at Paly.”

The precedent of hosting COVID-19 vaccinations might even make it easier for Paly to reimplement the same system for flu vaccines.

“We’ve even continued to discuss that with Safeway, who had partnered with our COVID vaccines too,” Dowell said. “It’s just [a matter of] coming up with the best plan to offer the vaccines for good utilization.”

[If the vaccination clinic] is in a location that people know… that cuts down on some of the anxiety if they are nervous about getting shots.”

— Rosemarie Dowell, Palo Alto Unified School District Health and Services Coordinator

According to Sutter Health, people who are 17 or younger need parent or guardian consent before receiving a vaccine in Palo Alto. Paly can work with a provider like Safeway or Stanford who has an established consent system so Paly can rely on these providers’ expertise and knowledge. The COVID-19 vaccines that were previously given out on campus would make it easier for Paly to provide flu shots on campus because they could use the same structure.

“It [offering flu shots on campus] is definitely not off the table,” Dowell said. “As a health services coordinator, I really value making health services accessible as possible to students.”

So do we. Flu shot availability on campus — and by extension, student health — is something to push for.