Flu and coronavirus vaccinations for students no longer required at WashU
Washington University has reverted its flu vaccine policy to the pre-pandemic standard. The flu vaccine, along with the COVID-19 booster, is now “highly recommended” instead of required.
The reversal also means that students will no longer need to have the flu or COVID-19 vaccines to enroll in classes, effective this year. Select employees of WashU, such as those in the WashU School of Medicine, are still mandated to get the vaccine.
Executive Director of the Washington University Health and Wellness Committee, Dr. Cheri LeBlanc, said that the University had originally mandated flu shots in order to prevent a “twin pandemic” of the flu and coronavirus, following the guidelines of the COVID-19 Medical Advisory Group.
The University still held flu shot clinics at the Habif Health and Wellness Center, with no additional cost to students. Habif is also hosting COVID-19 vaccination clinics, with the next one being on Dec. 1.
The recent policy shift by the University has sparked a range of opinions among the student body.
Sophomore MJ Jones said she is pessimistic about the effect of a shift in vaccine requirements.
“The fact that even fewer people are going to be vaccinated seems like it’s going to be very negative on the student body,” Jones said.
Senior Benjamin Yi also said that, while it is nice that WashU is encouraging the flu vaccine, he has also seen an uptick in the number of people getting ill.
“My friend got sick three times this year,” Yi said.
The COVID-19 vaccine is also no longer required to enroll at WashU, making the shift to “highly recommended” as of July 1, 2023.
MJ Jones said she is in favor of a vaccine mandate for the University.
“I totally understand autonomy, but I do think we’re one of the more permissive universities when it comes to COVID vaccinations,” Jones said. “I think some stuff, like flu vaccinations, you just have to do to make the student body safer.”
“I would enforce a bit more on the COVID vaccine than the flu vaccine,” first-year Yahir Dominguez said. “In my case, I haven’t had the flu vaccine in a while and I have never gotten the influenza virus since then.”
The impact on these policy changes will be observed as the school year progresses. It is yet to be seen if the lack of a requirement will result in more students becoming sick.
“I still feel [safe], mainly because WashU still takes the steps of precaution for when somebody actually does get the COVID infection,” Dominguez said.
Anna Calvo, a first-year, said that not requiring the flu shot will not make a “huge difference” because most students would choose to get the vaccine anyways.
First-year Cameron Gratz said he’s not particularly worried about the new vaccine policy.
“I do trust people to make the right decisions, even if it’s not required,” Gratz said. “Maybe not as comfortable as I would be if there were a requirement, but I don’t feel unsafe.”
In the end, the lack of University-mandated flu and COVID vaccines places the health of students in their own hands. Jones said she hopes students still get vaccinated.
“I just think it’s like seatbelts on cars,” Jones said, “Like some stuff you just got to do so everyone’s a little bit safer.”
This article was updated on November 16, 2023 to clarify the mandate’s effect on students, rather than all faculty.