Get Your Flu Shot. It’s Mandatory This Year
Student Health Services makes it easy as clinics begin on Charles River Campus this week
- Get your flu shot
- Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker has required it because of the COVID-19 pandemic
- Also, get your flu shot
It probably won’t take as long as reading this article. It may hurt less. And, well, you gotta.
In August, Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker’s administration announced that students under the age of 30 must get a flu shot by the end of the year, motivated largely by concern that simultaneous flu and COVID-19 outbreaks could overwhelm the commonwealth’s healthcare system.
The vaccination is required for anyone six months or older in childcare centers, preschool, K-12 schools, and colleges and universities, unless they have a religious or medical exemption, are home-schooled, or are a higher-education student living off campus and taking remote-only classes. At BU, any student in a Category 1, 2, or 3 will need to get an influenza vaccine. If students are choosing to Learn from Anywhere (LfA) and do not plan on coming to campus at all, they are not required to get the vaccine.
“We do not have evidence that getting your flu shot reduces the chance of getting COVID-19,” says Judy Platt, director of Student Health Services (SHS). “But the symptoms of the two are similar, and we know that there are many people who get sick with the flu who can have significant consequences, particularly those with underlying medical issues, similar to COVID. We don’t want people to tax the healthcare systems with flu-related consequences when those could be prevented, and detract from the ability to handle COVID-related concerns.”
And while it may not be COVID-19, the flu is a serious illness that can disrupt the life of even a healthy young adult.
“We see students every year who get the flu and are sick for one to two weeks, and it really disrupts their academic schedule,” Platt says. “If you’re feeling really sick, it doesn’t matter if you’re learning remotely—it still affects you.”
Students living on or near campus have multiple routes to get a flu shot. The easiest is to go through the SHS Patient Connect system to make an appointment at a flu clinic. The first one is scheduled today, Tuesday, September 29, from 9 am to 3 pm, at the FitRec 3-Court Gym entrance, across from 25 Buick Street, just around the corner from Student Health Services.
As with most other campus activities in the COVID-19 era, students are required to show ID, wear a mask, and have a green badge on their BU Healthway app to enter a clinic. Aside from that—and requiring appointments—the clinics are essentially the same as usual. “They’ve always been fast in and out, and now, since they’re by appointment, they’re likely to be even faster,” Platt says.
It’s important to note that unless you fit under one of the aforementioned exceptions, the shots are mandatory for BU students. To ensure students comply, the University is adding the flu shot to the existing list of required vaccines. Typically, the compliance deadline is in coordination with the add/drop deadline in any given semester. However, due to the unique circumstances, including the state’s January 1 deadline, compliance will now be tied to registration for the spring 2021 semester. Dates of registration are November 21 and 22 for graduate students and November 28 and 29 for undergraduate students. In order to have access to “the Planner,” students must have all required immunizations, including influenza.
Students can also book an appointment to get a flu shot at Student Health Services, or they get one at a CVS or another local pharmacy. These students will need to upload proof of a flu vaccination given outside of SHS to the Patient Connect portal so their compliance can be updated.
If you’re feeling really sick, it doesn’t matter if you’re learning remotely—it still affects you.
The price of the shot is $40, which will be billed to the Student Health Insurance Plan for those students who have it. Students covered by other health insurance plans will have the shot billed to their student account and be given a receipt they can use to seek reimbursement from their insurance company. Shots at outside pharmacies are often covered by outside insurance as well.
There have already been flu shot clinics held on the Medical Campus, where clinical students are in many cases already required to get a flu shot as part of immunization requirements.
And although they are not covered by the governor’s mandate, faculty and staff can also get their flu shots by booking an appointment through Occupational Health. SHS and Occupational Health are working together on the clinics this year.
Platt says it’s important to emphasize that you cannot get the flu from the flu vaccine, which contains either an inactive form of the virus or a significantly weakened virus. Some people may experience mild redness or soreness at the injection site or other mild discomfort. This is temporary, is simply your immune system reacting, and will pass quickly, she says. Much quicker than a case of the flu.
It’s also important to note that the flu shot is not 100 percent effective. Different strains of the flu strike the United States each year, and the shot is based on doctors’ best guesses of which strains will be prominent. In recent years, the shot has been 30 to 60 percent effective.
“It significantly reduces the likelihood of infection, and even if you do get the flu, you are more likely to get a mild case with less serious symptoms and less likelihood of requiring an increased level of care,” Platt says.
Student Health Services is offering a Flu Clinic for students today. You must make an appointment. It’s being held from 9 to 3 pm today, September 29, at the FitRec 3-Court Gym entrance, Buick Street.