Everything you need to know about Suffolk’s new flu shot mandate

Suffolk University students on campus under the age of 30 are now required to get a flu shot before the end of the year, according to an email sent to students from Student Affairs on Oct. 21.

All students, whether undergraduate, graduate or international, must receive the vaccine if they are or will be on campus for any reason, according to the Student Affairs office.  This includes students who will be on campus next semester.

The email sent to students noted that religious or medical exemptions are allowed, and that students taking classes online and not returning to campus this semester or Spring 2021 are not included in the requirement.

Suffolk had sent out information on Massachusetts’ new flu shot mandate earlier this semester, so the recent email did not come as a total surprise.

“Influenza immunization will be required for… colleges and universities. The new vaccine requirement is an important step to reduce flu-related illness and ​the overall impact of respiratory illness during the COVID-19 pandemic,” according to a Aug. 19 statement on the Massachusetts government website.

If students are already participating in the COVID-19 surveillance testing program on campus, they can also sign up for a slot to get the flu vaccine this week until Nov. 6 from noon to 4 p.m. using the CoVerified app. Another on-campus option is by scheduling an appointment at Counseling Health and Wellness (CHW) through the Student Health Portal.

If students are unable to access these resources on campus, flu vaccines are always being offered at pharmacies or primary care physicians.

Students must provide documentation that they have been vaccinated to the Student Health Portal by Dec. 31, 2020. To do so, students must go to this website, click the tab that reads “Immunizations” and then select “Flu Shot,” Assistant Director of CHW for Medical Operations Tracy Allen said in an interview with The Journal.

Both a PDF file or a screenshot are accepted. Without uploading this documentation, students may not be able to register for classes for the Spring 2021 semester or make alterations to schedules, according to Student Affairs.

Getting the influenza vaccine is more important now than ever before with the current pandemic, as many doctors are worried an influx of flu patients who need to be hospitalized could bring on a so-called “twindemic.” Allen explained that getting the seasonal flu shot simply saves lives, so it is urgent to get one as soon as possible.

“This year [2020], it is especially important to get the flu shot because the symptoms of COVID-19 are very similar to the symptoms of influenza and we want to decrease the need to unnecessarily isolate people out of concern for COVID when in reality, they may have the flu,” said Allen. “Furthermore, we want to decrease the burden on our healthcare systems in Massachusetts to the degree that we are able.”

Because COVID-19 and the flu can present similarly in some patients, people often confuse the two, and getting tested for the coronavirus is not the only way to make the distinction.

“The very best thing you can do is to discuss your symptoms with a medical professional,” said Allen. “CHW encourages all students who have symptoms to report them right away into the CoVerified app so that a Nurse Practitioner can reach out to discuss and to provide appropriate medical guidance.”

Other methods of staying safe this time of year would be to avoid close contact with infected people, cover coughs and sneezes, wash hands often, do not touch eyes or nose and other daily preventative measures, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Wearing a mask and maintaining social distancing are other crucial action steps to contain both COVID-19 and the flu, and it is encouraged that Suffolk students continue to do their part in helping to stop the spread of any sickness this winter.

Allen said that students can find more resources on staying safe through the CoVerified app.

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