Get a Free Flu Shot

Vaccine is safe, effective against illness

About 20,300 Duke employees have received a free flu shot since September. Photo courtesy of Duke University Health System.

Last year, Deirdre Ellis received her first-ever flu shot.

"I noticed every year I kept getting severe colds to the point where I was out of work a couple days and I thought, `this is ridiculous, what if I get the flu?'" said Ellis, an accounting specialist with the Duke Talent Identification Program. "But I was scared to get a flu shot because I kept hearing that if you get a shot you'll get the flu and be sicker than normal."

She never got sick after receiving her first vaccination in 2011 and won't go without a vaccine again.

Many staff and faculty are on board with Ellis. Since free flu shots became available in September, about 20,300 employees received a free shot through Employee Occupational Health and Wellness. Last year, about 20,000 faculty and staff received a flu shot - about 2,300 more vaccinations than the record number in 2010.

Dr. Carol Epling, director of Employee Occupational Health and Wellness, said employees shouldn't worry about getting the flu from a vaccine since the shot is made from dead proteins.  That means there's no live virus that could cause flu infection. 

"It could be a case where people get sick from an illness but simply have no symptoms when getting vaccinated, then their illness blossoms and they mistakenly attribute their symptoms to the vaccine," Epling said.

This year's flu vaccine contains new protection for two strains of flu as well as a previously covered H1N1 strain. Even if Duke community members received a shot last year, it's still recommended to receive a new vaccination because the duration of a vaccination doesn't last long enough to protect a person through two flu seasons. North Carolina typically sees its peak of flu cases in January, but had two flu deaths the last week of November due to state residents who were at risk for health complications from the flu and had not received the flu vaccine.

Statewide surveillance shows that flu activity is increasing in North Carolina - the number of positive flu tests recorded by the State Laboratory of Public Health has more than quadrupled since early November.

"It's never too early to get vaccinated, and because immunity lasts the entire flu season, faculty and staff don't have to worry about missing work or spreading the flu to loved ones," Epling said. "Thanks to an informed and active employee population, last year's seasonal flu was held at bay so we're hopeful we'll have a repeat of that again."