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Rice offers Free Flu Shots for Employees

Illustrated by Chloe Xu

By Serene Lee     11/5/19 11:19pm

To combat the oncoming flu season, Rice offered free flu vaccines to Rice staff and employees in seven sessions, the last of which occurred last Friday. Three of these sessions offered free health screenings in addition to the vaccine.

According to Rice Public Affairs, the sessions were held in the Cambridge Office Building, Rice Memorial Center, Duncan Hall and Anderson-Clarke Center to be easily accessible to employees. There was no appointment necessary — employees just needed to walk in, fill out a form and a nurse would administer the vaccination as long as employees have insurance. 

“We have around 1,100-1,200 vaccinations administered every year,” Rosie Gonzalez, wellness manager, said. “The wellness program has around 3,500 people who are eligible for the program …  and at least a third of our population gets a flu shot. And those are just the ones that get on campus. Using their insurance [faculty and staff] can also get [the vaccine] with their doctor or with one of the pharmacies.”

According to Gonzalez, vaccinations are provided by HealthFitness, Rice’s wellness company.  Shots provided are quadrivalent, meaning that the vaccine protects against two influenza A and two influenza B viruses. Funding for this program comes from Rice University through Rice Benefits, as a service to Rice employees.

In addition to vaccinations, free health screenings are also offered. Having fasted for 12 hours, the patient completes a fingerstick test to check for fasting glucose level and cholesterol. 

Patients are also given a vitals checkup which includes height, weight and blood pressure and complete a health risk assessment, according to Sue Prochazka, director of benefits. 

Prochazka said that the nature of health screenings have varied throughout the years.

 “Before I got here we used to do a venipuncture ... the results didn’t come back until a week or a week and a half later,” Prochazka said “The past three years we’ve done the fingerstick so that the time [the patient] is leaving they have all of their results, a printout and information from the health risk assessment, and they actually can sit down with a nurse and talk about [their results].”

Prochazka said that other workplaces have been offering free vaccinations to employees for decades. This service helps both the employee and the employer, as it keeps employees healthy and at work.  

“The benefits are ... keeping the number of people [with the flu] down [and] have people not missing work,” Prochazka said. “The flu can land people in the hospital, which is really expensive so we want to keep people out of the hospital if we can.” 

According to Gonzalez, although the program is doing great things for the Rice community, she hopes that it will expand in the future.

“I would like to see [the service] grow by having more employees [take the vaccine], even though we do at least 1,100 flu shots on average, it would be great if we could get up to 2,000 so that all employees would be getting their flu shot,” Gonzalez said.

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