Ryerson is one of the only universities in the province that has flu shots administered by nursing students.
It may seem odd that a student doesn’t even need to bring a health card to get immunized; but apparently, it’s normal for Toronto clinics and other local universities. The catch is that without a health card, the person would usually be charged a fee, like the $10 one in place at the University of Toronto.
But at Ryerson, because our nursing students are the ones administering the shots, there’s no health card required — and no cost, either.
In 2009, when swine flu was a serious threat in Toronto, there was a shortage of nurses to administer flu shots because of the high demand.
“We said, ‘why don’t we look at the resources we have here and use those to work our clinics?’” said Juannittah Kamera, coordinator of Ryerson’s Health Promotion Department.
So Kamera began to recruit students to administer vaccinations, as part of “experiential learning” for third-year nursing course disaster and emergency management. By this point in the nursing program, immunization shots are not the most difficult task students would have taken on. And as a registered nurse, Kamera is also required to be present at all the clinics Ryerson offers.
Even though nursing students have been administering flu shots for almost five years now, the reason Ryerson continues to have clinics is because students have indicated that flu prevention is vital to their academic success.
According to the Health Promotion Department’s 2013 health survey, the flu was number five on the list of things impacting student academics, after lack of sleep, anxiety, stress, and work.
Twenty-one per cent of those surveyed said sore throats and the flu had a serious impact on their academics. And ‘impact’ is not a word the health department uses lightly. Impact, in the survey, was defined as: Dropping a grade, being held back a year, missing an exam, missing a placement, or failing to submit assignments.
The number of students who get flu shots fluctuates depending on the year. When there was another scare a few years ago, the number of shots administered went up to approximately 1500. But over the last two years, only 400-600 per year community members at Ryerson are getting vaccinated.
Flu clinics are running at Ryerson at various times from Nov.11, 12, 18 and 19. Immunizations are also being offered across Toronto at 450 different clinics.
- In 2012, this document from Health Canada read:
“6. Are all Ontario residents eligible for the influenza vaccines administered by the pharmacist? 2
No. Pharmacists may only administer the publicly funded influenza vaccine to Ontarians five years of age and older who hold a valid Ontario Health Card (OHIP card).”
- “My child does not have an Ontario Health Card. How can I get my child immunized?
Students who are new to Canada and do not have an Ontario health card (OHIP) can call Peel Public Health at (905) 799-7700 for assistance. Do I have to pay for my child to be vaccinated? No. Mandatory immunizations for the purpose of attending school are free-of-charge for students with an Ontario health card (OHIP). For more information, please contact Peel Public Health at 905-799-7700, talk with your family doctor, or visit Where to Get Immunized.”
- University of Toronto: Need a health card? Need proof of insurance
“Please note flu shots are done by APPOINTMENT ONLY. Appointments can be booked by calling 416-978-8030, or by dropping in to Health Services”
- NEED A HEALTH CARD OR UHIP HAVE TO PAY $10
Lindsay was the managing editor for print at The Ryersonian and was previously an intern with CBC-TV's the fifth estate, an investigative documentary program. She focused on digital journalism, advanced research methods and reporting. She is an environmental pragmatist, advocate for freedom of expression, freedom of information and euthanasia of urban raccoons.
Lindsay graduated from the Ryerson School of Journalism in 2015.