As a nursing student at the University of Alabama last year, I was in shock when I found out the number of students who were reluctant to get the flu vaccine. There seemed to be so many misconceptions about it. To help combat those flu myths, I decided to hold a flu shot clinic on campus—allowing students to get their flu shot for free. It was a great success with 300 people coming by the clinic, and the opportunity to have some much-needed conversations with my fellow students was tremendous. This year, I have been able to team up with the American Lung Association to help raise even more awareness of the importance of the influenza vaccine and help dispel some of those myths.


My first stop with the American Lung Association was at local CVS Health in Dauphin County, Pennsylvania this October. I invited the public and media to join me in getting a flu shot. I wanted to show everyone how easy it is to protect yourself and those around you, especially your loved ones, from the flu. Being a nursing student, I wasn’t nervous, but do understand how others could be anxious about getting the flu shot. But with many supporters watching in-person, on Facebook Live and in front of the media, I rolled up my sleeve and in a matter of seconds it was done. I’d gotten my flu shot and could rest easy knowing I would be protected from the flu this season. And I’m here to tell you that it was quick, relatively painless and any soreness was gone within the day.

My next stop to help raise awareness was the American Lung Association’s 5th Annual LUNG FORCE Walk in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania in November—Lung Cancer Awareness Month—when I had the opportunity to join the CVS Health tent as healthcare professionals educated walkers about the flu and offered free flu shots. I was able to hold hands with anyone who felt a little nervous, but for the most part everyone was excited to get their shot!

As I’ve been traveling to help raise awareness about the flu, the number one thing I have heard from people this year is that “the flu shot causes me to get the flu.” The truth is, it’s impossible for the flu shot to give you influenza, because it does not contain a live virus. Some people might experience mild soreness, redness or swelling at the injection site, and rarely a headache or low-grade fever. It takes about two weeks after vaccination for antibodies to develop in the body and provide protection against the flu, but the flu shot will not give you the flu.

Something else most people tell me is that they think they don’t need to get the flu shot because they are healthy. Even healthy people can get influenza and it can be serious. Everyone 6 months and older should get vaccinated each year as the circulating strains of the virus change annually. It’s why you hear so often how important it is to get a flu shot if you’ll be around newborns and babies, as well as pregnant women, the elderly and those with weakened immune systems such as cancer patients. And it’s important to protect those around you from the flu. By immunizing yourself, you are protecting your loved ones by not passing along the flu.

Finally, some people think Influenza is kind of like the common cold … it's not a big deal, right? Wrong. Influenza, commonly called the "flu," is a severe respiratory illness that is easily spread and can lead to severe complications or even death. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that the U.S. saw record flu deaths last year, with 80,000 deaths recorded during the 2017-18 flu season.

The flu shot doesn't guarantee you won't get influenza, but it significantly reduces your risk. There are many types of flu viruses circulating and they change from year to year. The flu shot is designed to protect you from several of the most common types of influenza. Symptoms of the flu can include body aches, fatigue, chills, fever and a cough. If you experience any of these symptoms head to a healthcare provider to see if there are antivirals that can help you recover safely and quickly.

In addition to getting your flu shot this year, make sure to stop the spread of the flu by washing your hands frequently, get prompt medical attention if you develop flu symptoms, and keep your distance when you're sick or if you're around someone who is sick.

Each year, influenza, or flu, sends hundreds of thousands of Americans to the hospital. This contagious respiratory virus affects the entire body and is usually spread when a person coughs or sneezes. The single most effective thing you can do to avoid the flu is to get vaccinated every year.

As Miss Pennsylvania I am grateful to have had the opportunity to partner with the American Lung Association to make sure more Americans, including Pennsylvanians, learn about the flu and get vaccinated, so that they can protect themselves, the ones they love most and everyone around us.

Learn more about protecting yourself from the flu at

Kayla Repasky, Miss Pennsylvania, is a 22-year-old native of Gettysburg, PA. She is a senior at the University of Alabama studying to obtain a Bachelor of Science in Nursing, with a career ambition to ultimately become a nurse anesthetist.

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