The line of students stretched for more than 100 yards and wound down a flight of stairs as University of South Florida students tried to beat three other Florida universities at getting their flu shots on Wednesday.
USF joined for the first time with Florida State University, the University of Florida and the University of Central Florida to encourage students to be immunized. They dubbed the competition "4 U's Fight The Flu."
Student Health Services Executive Medical Director Joseph A. Puccio said he definitely wanted to win. But more than that, Puccio wants students immunized.
"Flu does not discriminate," Puccio said. "It is a virus that's easily transmitted by coughing and runny noses. So everyone really needs to get out and get a flu shot."
Getting students immunized for influenza cuts down on clinic visits, he said.
“We definitely have seen a difference when the students get the flu shot,” Puccio said. “We see that the number of kids coming in for appointments for upper respiratory infections have gone down.”
The scene in front of the Student Health Services offices and the USF Bookstore was raucous, with Rocky the Bull exhorting students to get in line and the Herd of Thunder marching band members booming the university fight song. Even USF President Steven Curall showed up to see how the competition was going.
The health fair also included a dozen other tables for wellness and health-related information. Add in the swag and free food and you had flu-shot-apalooza.
Students gave many reasons for waiting in line. Some said they did it to beat UCF, USF's big football rival.
Brooke Penkal, a sophomore criminology major, perhaps had the most relatable reason of all for standing in line: “Actually, mom told me that I should go here because it's free.”
Others cited health concerns. For college students, getting the flu and missing many days of classes can derail an entire semester.
Waiting at the end of the long line was senior psychology major Sarah DeSciscio, who also works on campus. She acted on her boss's encouragement even though she didn't want a shot.
"If I get sick, I get sick," DeSciscio said. But her boss told her, "it's not about you. It's about the people that can't get the flu shot."
Those who participated left with a small round bandage on their biceps. They also walked away with a victory: USF beat the other schools with 1,181 immunizations to FSU's 769, UF's 676 and UCF's expected 600-800.