Universities mandate flu shots as part of COVID fighting efforts

Universities across the U.S. are making flu vaccines mandatory for students.

Massachusetts mandated vaccines for all postsecondary students, and New York is considering the same policy.

As students at some universities have returned to in-person instruction, some schools are requiring their students to get the flu vaccine. 

The University of California system is requiring all students, faculty, and staff — including remote workers who may need to access campus at any point — to prove that they have received the flu vaccine by Nov. 1. Students may provide a medical exemption or file “requests” for religious exemptions. 

“The executive order is an important proactive measure to help protect members of the UC community — and the public at large — and to ameliorate the severe burdens on health care systems anticipated during the coming fall and winter from influenza and COVID-19 illnesses,” said the university in a statement.

Those who request religious exemptions will have to go through “existing location policies and procedures,” even as the university establishes a new process for faculty and staff to request medical exemptions.

[RELATED: Lawmakers to University of California: Cut partnership with religious health providers]

The University of Southern California followed suit, announcing that flu shots would be mandatory for students returning to in-person classes or living in university housing for the spring semester. Students have until Nov.1 to get the vaccine. 

As early as June, the University of Tennessee stated that it would require the flu vaccine for all students, as well as the eventual COVID-19 vaccine when it is available. Though the university initially established the policy as an emergency rule, it will eventually be made permanent, according to UT System President Randy Boyd.

”There may be some push-back, but we believe this is in the best interest of our students,” Boyd said. 

Massachusetts’ public health officials recently announced that flu vaccines would be required for all students older than six months who are attending Massachusetts schools. This includes college and university students, who will need to receive the flu vaccine by the end of the year. 

Students may provide a medical or religious exemption.

The only exception to the policy is for “university students who exclusively attend classes online and never visit campus in person.” 

However, college students who attend any classes or activities “even once” must be vaccinated by Dec. 31.

{RELATED: Cuomo’s college closures? NY governor throws a wrench in campus COVID plans]

During a Sept. 10 press conference with New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, that state’s Health Commissioner Howard Zucker said that New York is considering policies similar to those established by Massachusetts.

“We’re looking at all these possibilities to see what we can do,” said Zucker. 

“I think public health information is the first necessary thing to do, but we are looking at that as a possibility,” he added. 

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