As Thanksgiving slowly approaches, bringing family reunions and turkey dinners as well as exams and term papers, health is the last thing on many students' minds. But health professionals warn that November is the time for students to get flu shots to ward off sickness during the coming winter months.

"The reason college students should get [the flu shot] is they're living in close quarters and it's easy to get [the flu] that way," said Nurse Deronda Elliott, director of the East Campus Wellness Clinic, one of three sites where students may receive the vaccine free of charge.

Elliott said she has given hundreds of shots at her clinic; Student Health is also offering flu shots at Pickens and the Infirmary in the Duke Clinic.

"I'm planning on getting one this year," said Trinity junior Amir Rashid-Farokhi. "Might as well, it doesn't hurt."

Rashid-Farokhi said he was also vaccinated last year, but has had little success convincing his hallmates to receive their shots.

Each year the Centers for Disease Control develop and distribute the flu vaccine that will be most effective at fighting that particular year's dominant flu strain. Because this strain-and thus, of course, the vaccine-changes each year, a flu shot must be taken annually.

The vaccine given this fall should remain effective through about March, Elliott said.

Trinity sophomore Laura Weeshoff said the changes made in the shot each year make her wary of receiving a vaccine. "I heard that doctors have to predict what strength [to make the vaccine]," she explained. "A lot of people [who've had the shot] still get the flu."

Most students also consider themselves healthy, and therefore do not consider the shot necessary. As Trinity sophomore Caryn Liniak said, "I never get the flu."

But Elliott said the vaccine is necessary because it protects students from the more debilitating versions of the virus.

Many students not planning to be vaccinated explained their decision by citing a lack of free time and the inconvenient locations of the centers offering the shot.

Trinity sophomores MacGregor Campbell and Elizabeth Shepherd both said they would be more likely to get vaccinated if the shots were available in a centrally located spot such as the Bryan Center. "It's just not really on the forefront of my thoughts right now," Sheppard explained.

Elliott said, however, that students who come to the center on East Campus often have no wait, and only rarely spend more than 10 to 15 minutes at the center.