Monday, January 17, 2022

Some colleges have introduced new requirements for flu vaccines

After a year of safety measures and Zoom lectures interrupted by the pandemic, the promise of a coronavirus vaccine has given US universities a chance to return to normal this fall. The virus has not been completely eradicated on campuses, but large outbreaks are rare so far.

However, the onset of flu season poses additional challenges.

Colleges are ideal breeding grounds for viruses, and some public health experts predict this year’s flu season will be more severe than last. To protect against epidemics, a number of major universities are moving beyond their usual fall flu vaccination requirements and enacting regulations.

More on the COVID-19 pandemic

At Johns Hopkins University, which will enforce flu vaccination requirements for students, faculty and staff, one of the main concerns was that if an outbreak of influenza hits campus, students with flu symptoms could mistake it for COVID-19 and overwhelm testing centers. …

“Making the flu vaccine mandatory was, I would say, a simple decision based on all of these considerations,” said Stephen Gange, the university’s executive vice rector for academic affairs and professor at Bloomberg School of Public Health. “I think people see value in trying to control influenza given that we are still at a high rate of transmission of COVID.”

Health experts had expected the fusion of the coronavirus and the flu to trigger “tweendemia” – serious outbreaks of two viruses at once – in the past year.

But “very few people got the flu in the past year because everyone was at home trying to avoid COVID and everyone was wearing masks,” explained Ranit Mishori, chief public health officer at Georgetown University. Mishori said millions of people who escaped the flu last year may have weakened immune systems because their bodies do not create the barriers needed to fight the virus.

Now that students have returned to campuses and many Americans have returned to work, experts warn that the dangerous flu season predicted for 2020 is finally here.

“It is expected that … this year will potentially be harsher,” Mishori said.

Georgetown has had to face two viral outbreaks this year, including 65 confirmed cases of influenza A on the main campus and at the medical center, according to Hoya University’s student newspaper.

“This is in line with our expectations … lower immunity in the population, early infection rates,” said Mishori of the flu cases. “To meet this expectation, we set up two vaccination clinics for students earlier than usual.”

The campus will not enforce vaccination requirements, but officials are encouraging students and staff to get vaccinated.

“College students are more open to these messages because of COVID,” Mishori said. “The students really want to get vaccinated.”

According to a survey conducted by the American College Health Association, the flu vaccine rate among college students is usually around 50 percent, but the number of students who reported they had a flu shot in the previous 12 months rose to 61 percent in 2020. links with the pandemic. raged.

College health officials want the percentage to go even higher this year. Besides Johns Hopkins, flu shots are required for all schools, such as the University of Miami and McDaniel College of Maryland, and the entire UCLA system.

Ilona University in North Carolina will be inaugurating the mandate for the second year in a row, said Yana Lynn Patterson, assistant vice president of student life and dean of student affairs.

“Our positive cases have just dropped sharply,” Patterson said of last year’s flu season, when most of Elon’s students had already returned to campus.

Elon’s students this year will have to prove they got their flu shots by October 29, the deadline that should precede the Thanksgiving break. “This is always a vulnerable time for us when they leave and come back,” Patterson said.

George Mason University in Northern Virginia demanded that boarding students get a flu shot last year when officials were worried about an overwhelming coronavirus testing infrastructure on campus.

But this year, with more coronavirus vaccines available and more reliable on-campus testing, “there is less reason for mandatory influenza vaccinations than there was last year,” said Stephen Wintermeyer, deputy director of the university’s student services medical department.

Instead, George Mason executives are opening flu vaccination clinics and urging students and staff to get vaccinated, Wintermeyer said. And officials hope that a policy of wearing masks, washing hands regularly, and staying at home while sick during a pandemic will also prevent flu outbreaks.

“In general, students take everything very seriously,” said Wintermeyer. “I think people are more aware of the transmission of viruses than in the past.”

Nation World News Desk
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