Universities Issue Seasonal Flu Vaccine Mandates as Part of COVID-19 Response

By GQ Pan
GQ Pan
GQ Pan
September 23, 2021 Updated: September 23, 2021

As influenza season approaches, some universities in the United States are requiring students and faculty members to receive flu shots as part of the COVID-19 response.

At the University of Notre Dame, where 98 percent of students have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, flu shots will be offered for free on campus in two flu blitzes from Oct. 4 through Oct. 6, and Oct. 25 through Oct. 27. The university’s health officials said all students are required to get a shot, and that those who got it off campus must submit documentation of vaccination.

“Symptoms of the flu can often mimic COVID-19,” Notre Dame explains on its website. “It is important to get the flu vaccine to minimize the cases of flu on campus this year and, to the extent possible, preserve testing resources for COVID-19 testing.”

Notre Dame students must complete the flu vaccine requirement by Nov. 1 or they will be blocked from registering for classes next semester, the university warns. They may request an exemption for medical or religious reasons.

In Florida, the University of Miami (UM) announced this week that students, faculty, and staff on all three of its campuses have until Nov. 17 to receive the seasonal flu vaccine. Like Notre Dame, it too offers medical and religious exemptions.

According to student newspaper The Miami Hurricane, the flu vaccine mandate at UM is meant to ensure that the seasonal flu does not reduce healthcare resources for those in need of care, and to not make it harder for the university to test for and trace COVID-19 cases.

“I encourage everyone to comply with this requirement, whether you are currently coming to campus or you are continuing to work and study remotely,” said UM President Julio Frenk in an address to students. “Flu vaccines are available now, by appointment. In fact, I just received my seasonal flu shot.”

Meanwhile, at Wayne State University (WSU) in Detroit, all students, faculty, and staff are required to get the vaccine by Oct. 20 or apply for a waiver based on “legitimate health or religious reasons.”

“As we continue to navigate the pandemic, vaccines for COVID-19 and the flu play a crucial role in keeping our community safe and allowing us to offer in-person classes and on-campus events,” said WSU in a message sent to students on Monday. The university is among a dozen Michigan colleges and universities, including the University of Michigan and Michigan State, that have a COVID-19 vaccination mandate.

The most recently updated COVID-19 vaccination guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that these vaccines may be administered with other vaccines, including flu vaccines. The CDC also recommends that providers should be aware of the reactogenicity (adverse reactions) profile with co-administration of COVID-19 and other vaccines.

“Administer the COVID-19 vaccines and vaccines that may be more likely to cause a local reaction in different limbs, if possible,” the CDC guidance says.

GQ Pan