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In addition to changing leaves and cooler temperatures, October brings with it the official start to flu season. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the flu season can last until May. In response, MIT Medical will once again hold free flu vaccination clinics.

Flu vaccines are offered at MIT Medical’s annual walk-in clinics or by appointment and are free to all MIT students, staff, retirees, and anyone enrolled in a MIT Medical health plan. The clinics will occur on Wednesday, Oct. 2 and Oct. 10 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on the third floor of the Student Center. There will also be clinics throughout October in Lexington for Lincoln Laboratory employees. Children under age 10 may not receive flu shots at the Student Center clinics but may receive them by appointment if over six months old.

According to Deborah Friscino, director of operations at MIT Medical, 2012 saw 13,492 people vaccinated, including 4,601 people on the student/affiliate health plan. It was a record year in the number of flu vaccines administered at MIT, with 5,500 vaccinated in two days of flu clinics alone. David Diamond, associate medical director of MIT Medical, explained, “Each year we give more flu vaccines than [the previous year]; we anticipate giving nearly 12,000 shots before this season is over.”

Nevertheless, there are still many students who do not receive the shot. Citing interviews of MIT students conducted during the flu pandemic three years ago, Diamond wrote in an email to The Tech, “Probably the most common reason [for not getting vaccinated] for all is that they do not feel at risk and therefore don’t need it.” Diamond noted that students are “not at high risk unless there is a really bad outbreak or they have health issues to begin with.” But even a healthy student may miss up to a week of classes while recovering.

“For the average busy, overworked, time-pressured MIT student, the protection of getting a flu shot is the smart choice,” said Diamond, adding that wait times at the clinics are usually under 10 minutes.

While past shots only protected against one strain of influenza B and two strains of influenza A, this year’s flu shot covers an additional strain of influenza B, as well as H1N1, according to MIT Medical’s website about the vaccinations.

According to the CDC, for the flu shot to be widely effective, as many people as possible need to be vaccinated. They recommend that everyone over the age of six months receive a flu shot, especially those with asthma, diabetes, or chronic lung disease.

Addressing concerns about the usefulness of the flu shot, the CDC states that the effectiveness of the flu shot “can range widely from season to season,” depending on the person who is receiving the shot, and how similar the flu vaccine is to the flu viruses actually passing through the community. However, receiving the vaccine will still reduce the chance of infection. People vaccinated last year still need one this year. Since it takes two weeks after the shot for the body to grow the antibodies to fight influenza, it is best to get vaccinated as early as possible.

For more information about flu vaccinations at MIT, visit http://medweb.mit.edu/about/news/flu/index.php.