University Health Center flu shot safety

The University Health Center started its annual flu shot clinics Wednesday with a myriad of adaptations for COVID-19, including no more walk-in appointments and a change of location to the Campus Recreation Center. More changes were made to the structure of the clinics based on student feedback for the clinics’ second day of operation. 

Britt Otte, clinic manager of UHC, said the clinic was short-staffed for its first day, cut in half due to COVID-19 quarantines. That was just one of the many challenges the coronavirus pandemic has brought to flu clinic organizers, according to Otte. 

“COVID has created lots of unique challenges, but ultimately our goal is to keep everyone as safe as possible and yet offer flu shots to the majority,” Otte said. 

Erika Luckert, a graduate student in the Department of English, got her flu shot on the clinic’s opening day. She said she encourages her peers to get their flu shots, as she feels it’s an important practice to keep individuals and the community healthy. 

Concerned about safety protocols at the clinic, she said she called the health center and was reassured appropriate safety measures would be in place. However, she said she was disappointed with what she saw when she arrived. 

“I had hoped to leave that flu shot clinic and be able to tell everybody how impressed I was by the protocols and the safety in place,” Luckert said. “But it certainly didn't feel like that was a move I could make.”

The line to wait for the vaccination was long and indoors, Luckert said, with moveable red dots that were not spaced 6-feet apart. She said she witnessed an on-site administrator talking on the phone and with students while her mask hung around her neck. 

When Luckert sat down to get her shot, she said the administrator still had her mask down. Additionally, while flu shot recipients were spaced 6 feet apart during the procedure, workers were not. 

“I was pretty nervous the whole time standing there waiting to get a flu shot,” Luckert said. “And certainly I was disappointed because I was hyping the flu shots to my peers [and] to my students because I think it's a really important thing for all of us to do every year, but especially right now.”

Luckert emailed covid19@unl.edu on Wednesday detailing her experience. She said she received a response later that day and a follow-up phone call from the health center responding to her concerns on Thursday. 

Otte said changes were made to the clinic for its second day. In addition to the increased staff, students were told to stand next to the spacing dots instead of on them to avoid movement and maintain 6 feet of distance. Otte said she also cut available appointment slots in half for when the clinic first opens in the morning and right after lunch to avoid long lines, though availability hasn’t decreased throughout the rest of the day. 

Keeping staff accountable for wearing masks and reinforcing the importance of wearing them also remains a focus for Otte. 

“Everyone is wearing a mask, and we do constantly educate and redirect individuals if we notice that they're wearing it incorrectly or if they've taken it off to get a drink or what have you,” she said. “It's kind of crazy, but it's becoming second nature, and so it's important that whenever [we see] a mask inappropriately … worn or not being worn that we're all held to the same accountability.”

Luckert said she feels it’s important for students to provide the university with feedback when they feel uncomfortable with safety protocols.

“Giving feedback to the university about these things is important … because they're going to be imperfect through all of this,” she said. “Of course it's not easy, but I think that we should be holding them accountable to do better than what I saw there the other day.”

Otte said she hopes students feel safe when they come to get their flu shots this year and act responsibly to limit exposing themselves and others to the coronavirus at the clinics. 

“We moved it out of the health center in an effort to … keep the sick and the healthy separated,” she said. “No one that is feeling ill should be coming in to get these flu shots. People are being instructed this year more than ever that if you are not feeling well, please, please, please stay home and isolate yourself.”

covid@dailynebraskan.com