Teamwork: the shot in the arm needed to pull off flu vaccine efforts



Every fall, health providers encourage the public to get flu shots, but it’s even more important now because of the coronavirus pandemic. All Notre Dame students are required to receive the flu vaccine this year.

“With our students living with their families, friends and especially in residence halls, the flu vaccine can help keep our community healthier,” said Christine Caron Gebhardt, assistant vice president for student services. 

“While the vaccine does not protect against COVID-19, it does reduce the overall risk of the flu illness from occurring. It also reduces the number of people requiring hospitalization due to being sick with the flu. With our testing centers, clinics and hospitals trying to manage COVID-19, this relieves a burden on our health care resources by decreasing illnesses on our campus and in the South Bend community,” Gebhardt said.

Not to mention how the symptoms of the flu are so similar to those of COVID-19.

“The symptoms of the flu are so similar. You get the shortness of breath, the cough, high fever, body aches. So we want to be able to rule out the potential or likelihood of the flu,” said Nichole Rodriguez, the department coordinator of University Health Services (UHS).

Students sign in for a flu shots at Gate B in the concourse of Notre Dame Stadium.
(Photos by Barbara Johnston/University of Notre Dame)

The University cast a wide net to vaccinate the campus community, including faculty, staff and their families. There were two three-day flu vaccine blitzes at Notre Dame Stadium and Human Resources made additional arrangements to meet demand.

“We added the vaccines to the pharmacy benefit, which allows faculty, staff and their dependents to go to any in-network pharmacy to get the vaccine, free of charge,” said Scott Hershberger, compensation and benefits manager.

Between the two flu vaccine blitz events and the pharmacy benefit, there is already a 50 percent increase in the vaccines administered for faculty, staff and their dependents compared to last year.

The flu vaccine blitz is normally held each fall in the Stepan Center, but this year more space was needed to provide sufficient physical distance in lines and at the vaccine stations. The stadium’s concourse, at Gate B, was the ideal venue. All that was needed was volunteers. 

“I am so impressed by the community’s response to this, not only those who are coming to get vaccinated, but this has truly been a campus effort,” Hershberger said at last week’s blitz. 

“Usually it’s just HR, UHS and the Wellness Center working together to pull off the blitz, but with all of the COVID restrictions that we’re working with, we had to solicit volunteers from the academy and departments on campus. It’s been really nice to see so many volunteers from HR, UHS, the Wellness Center and elsewhere coming together for something so important,” he said.  

Blitz organizers reached out to people across campus to see if they had some time to come in for three- to four-hour blocks to help check in community members and direct foot traffic. They also reached out to other colleges that have nursing programs. 

“It’s been great to partner with Saint Mary’s College, Ancilla College and Bethel University,” Rodriguez said. “We’ve had nursing students here who are able to get experience and that muscle memory of giving the vaccine, which is so important for them.” 

It’s not too late to receive a flu vaccine. In addition to going to any in-network pharmacy to get the vaccine, faculty, staff and their dependents may make an appointment at the Notre Dame Wellness Center or contact any in-network provider