April 25, 2019 | 52° F

EDITORIAL: Vaccines should be widely encouraged

Influenza is particularly widespread this year


Last week, New Jersey Principal Deputy Commissioner of Health Jackie Cornell got her flu shot at Eric B. Chandler Health Center in New Brunswick, which she hoped would serve as a reminder to the community to do the same. Between September and this past Saturday, there have been more than 5,000 positive tests of influenza in New Jersey, according to the New Jersey Department of Health’s Respiratory Virus Surveillance Report. A significant spike in number of positive tests began in early January, and the H3N2 influenza virus, which is one of three common subsets of Influenza A, is particularly widespread this year. 

Considering the flu’s ability to mutate so efficiently, it can be difficult to formulate a sufficiently effective vaccine for the illness. For that reason, we still see people getting sick despite having gotten their shot. But in general, vaccines are quite effective at preventing diseases. Sometimes, though, people are understandably wary of receiving them. Rumors of their causing mental defects and things of that sort no doubt deter people from getting their shots, as well as the fact that in many cases they are regulated by the government — not necessarily always the most trusted of institutions. But the case for getting vaccines seems, in some sense, to overpower that of choosing not to do so. 

One important aspect of vaccinations is the concept of “herd immunity” or “herd resistance.” This is the idea that the more people who are vaccinated, the less likely the disease is to spread because it becomes harder for it to be contracted from one person to another, eventually leading to a possible eradication. Such is the case with polio and measles. Despite a good safety record with regard to vaccines in this day and age, people do remain skeptical and are sometimes subject to misguided safety concerns. In those cases, people fail to get vaccinated. This can lead to a re-emergence of the disease in question because of a decrease in population with immunity, putting a dent in the “herd’s” resistance to it. 

When it comes to Rutgers, we see that there are rules in place that require students to receive vaccines for certain diseases. One such disease is meningitis. All undergraduate students are required to either submit verification of receiving the vaccines or to formally decline the vaccination through a separate document, according to Student Health Services. In 2016, approximately 3,000 Rutgers students declined to get the meningitis vaccine despite its reappearance. While this is ill-advised, those who signed their declination forms were informed of the risks involved. With that said, it seems, in a sense, a bit irresponsible to reject the empirical evidence suggesting vaccines’ effectiveness in a community environment as well as the low safety risks involved with them. School environments entail large numbers of people being in close proximity to one another for long periods of times, and in some sense even at all times — presumably resulting in the perfect case for the rapid spread of diseases. 

An interesting thing to bring into question with regard to the spread of diseases at Rutgers, especially considering how widespread influenza is this year, is the University’s attendance policy. Rutgers has a pretty strict policy when it comes to class attendance, and some professors are quite adamant about their students being there and on time. Additionally, it is often not easy for students to get notes excusing them from class, especially from on-campus health centers like Hurtado. Not being able to get notes from on-campus centers forces students to either go to a doctor off campus — which they may not have time or transportation for — or simply go to class. Many choose the latter, and by doing so risk infecting other members of the Rutgers community. In that sense, some professors’ overly strict attendance policies are maladaptive. Most professors would likely agree that they would rather their students not get others in their class sick, but their policies regarding attendance conflict that. 

Us students with our young and resilient bodies will undoubtedly get through this flu season, but the very old and very young members of the New Brunswick community may not be so lucky, as our immune systems are in many cases not as strong making them more susceptible to severe cases. Rutgers students should be informed and reminded further of the importance of getting vaccinated not only for their personal self, but for everyone else around them. 


The Daily Targum's editorials represent the views of the majority of the 150th editorial board. Columns, cartoons and letters do not necessarily reflect the views of the Targum Publishing Company or its staff.

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