Blake Catlett | November 14, 2022
Vanderbilt’s annual flu vaccine frenzy, Flulapalooza, held its tenth iteration on September 28, 2022. Over 10,000 students and staff from Vanderbilt University and VUMC received jabs over the event’s 12 hour window (Flulapalooza | VUMC Reporter | Vanderbilt University, n.d.). However, although this number sounds grand, it shows a worrying decrease from pre-COVID-19 numbers.
What is the history of Flulapalooza?
Flulapalooza had its first showing on October 12, 2011. At this time, VUMC was developing a mass vaccination plan for public health emergencies, like a pandemic. Those working on the plan needed a physical way to test its effectiveness; thus, Flulapalooza was born. At its inaugural showing, Flulapalooza provided more than 14,000 flu vaccines over 11 hours. Due to the success of the event, the Vanderbilt community installed Flulapalooza as an annual kickoff to the flu season that is still going strong 11 years later (Flulapalooza® History | Vanderbilt Faculty & Staff Health and Wellness, n.d.).
What vaccines can you find at Flulapalooza?
Three types of vaccines are offered at each Flulapalooza: a regular Quadrivalent Inactivated Vaccine (QIV), an egg-free vaccine, and a high dose vaccine (Flulapalooza® History | Vanderbilt Faculty & Staff Health and Wellness, n.d.). The regular QIV is the vaccine most people receive; it is intended for anyone over the age of 6 months without an egg allergy. The egg-free vaccine is supplied to accommodate those with egg allergies, since the production of QIVs utilizes eggs. The high dose vaccine contains four times as much as the regular dose and is more effective in patients over the age of 65.
Quadrivalent vaccines are designed to help build immunity against four different types of influenza viruses, specifically two A flu viruses (H1N1 and H3N2) and two B flu viruses. QIVs were developed to provide improved protection against the flu, since past vaccines were only designed to protect against three strains (CDC, 2022).
Why are we seeing a decrease in the success of Flulapalooza?
However, Flulapalooza could be seeing decreasing success as we reach the tail end of the COVID-19 pandemic. Flulapalooza 9, the last event held before the COVID-19 pandemic struck the world, deployed over 5,000 more vaccinations than Flulapalooza X. Thus, this year’s Flulapalooza exhibited a decrease of nearly one-third (Flulapalooza | VUMC Reporter | Vanderbilt University, n.d.).
It is possible that many have placed less importance onto the flu due to the raging public health crisis that has haunted the world for over 2 years. In fact, the pandemic itself had pushed the flu to the side over the past couple of years (CDC, 2022). Flu cases during the pandemic dropped significantly due to social distancing, masking, and other preventative measures (Verbanas, 2022). However, as we slowly enter a post-COVID-19 world and leave these measures behind, flu numbers are bound to bounce back to what they were.
Vaccine distrust is another potential candidate for the decrease in Flulapalooza participation. As COVID-19 vaccines hit health centers, public health misinformation reached new heights, adding political charge to the health crisis. In a recent paper published in Nature, almost 60% of the study’s sample population reported being exposed to conspiratorial vaccine misinformation. This number does not account for respondents who believed in the misinformation they encountered. Therefore, the actual percent may be higher (Lee et al., 2022).
The importance of fighting health misinformation
The effects of the vast health misinformation surrounding COVID-19 could be encroaching onto people’s beliefs about the influenza vaccines. Thus, fighting public health misinformation is vital to protecting ourselves and everyone around us. The CDC provides an outline of how to identify and dismantle misinformation you encounter.
Vaccine hesitancy does not only come from misinformation. People may be concerned about possible negative effects of the vaccine or seek alternative options. The CDC sets out to answer plenty of questions about misconceptions on the efficacy and safety of seasonal flu vaccines. For instance, they explain why receiving a seasonal flu vaccine annually is better than any alternatives. The entire forum can be found here.
As we endure this flu season, it is important to get your flu shot. The best time to get your shot is by the end of October, but vaccines given after that point can still provide protection (CDC, 2022). Even though Flulapalooza is over, there are still many different ways to get your flu shot on and off Vanderbilt’s campus.
CDC. (2021, November 3). How to address covid-19 vaccine misinformation. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/covid-19/health-departments/addressing-vaccine-misinformation.html
CDC. (2022a, August 25). Misconceptions about flu vaccines. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/flu/prevent/misconceptions.htm
CDC. (2022b, October 26). What you need to know about influenza (Flu) from CDC. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/flu/index.htm
Flulapalooza® | vanderbilt faculty & staff health and wellness. (n.d.). https://www.vumc.org/health-wellness/flulapaloozar
Flulapalooza® history | vanderbilt faculty & staff health and wellness. (n.d.). https://www.vumc.org/health-wellness/node/52
Flulapalooza | vumc reporter | vanderbilt university. (n.d.). https://news.vumc.org/tag/flulapalooza/
Lee, S. K., Sun, J., Jang, S., & Connelly, S. (2022). Misinformation of COVID-19 vaccines and vaccine hesitancy. Scientific Reports, 12(1), 13681. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-022-17430-6 Verbanas, P. (2022, September 14). Why the flu vaccine is more important than ever this year. Rutgers University. https://www.rutgers.edu/news/why-flu-vaccine-more-important-ever-year