Emerson to restrict access to community members without flu shots in January

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Media: Hongyu Liu

The Center for Health and Wellness.

By Dana Gerber, Deputy News Editor

Emerson students will be barred from campus at the beginning of the semester if they do not provide the college with documentation of a flu shot, per a Massachusetts mandate.

Students must submit proof of receiving the shot to the Student Health Portal, managed by the Center for Health and Wellness, by Dec. 31. If they fail to do so, they risk restrictions to their campus tap access, Assistant Vice President for Campus Life Erik Muurisepp said in a phone interview. Staff and faculty will communicate with Human Resources to affirm their vaccination.

“As we get into the coming weeks, we’ll do targeted outreach to those that are not in compliance that don’t have a flu shot on file yet, and we’ll continue to do that through January,” Muurisepp, who also serves as the college’s “COVID Lead” said. 

The state mandate, announced by the Massachusetts Department of Health in mid-August, requires students older than six months and younger than 30 attending child care, pre-school, kindergarten, K-12 or colleges and universities to receive the immunization by Dec. 31 if they plan to attend in-person classes in the spring. Students studying remotely or with approved religious or medical exemptions do not have to be vaccinated. 

Students are able to upload their “signed immunization verification document” in the “uploads” tab of the health portal. Students are also supposed to enter the date they received the shot, though there is currently no option on the portal to do so. Despite an email from Campus Life stating “the flu vaccine is now listed as a requirement in the Student Health Portal,” influenza is not listed under the “immunizations” tab where students typically submit proof of vaccinations. 

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The requirement aims to curb the surge in flu infections that typically accompanies the winter months, so as to not divert necessary resources from COVID-19 patients. Coronavirus infections and hospitalizations in the state are skyrocketing, with single-day cases topping 2,000 five times this week. 

Though local hospitals say they are now better prepared for an uptick in COVID-19 cases than they were at the onset of the pandemic, compounding those cases with an influx of flu patients—who may also require respiratory support—would further stretch healthcare resources. 

Other local schools, like Northeastern University and Harvard University, are also requiring documentation from students to access their campuses in the spring semester. At Suffolk University and Boston University, students may not be eligible to register for or alter their spring semester class schedules if they fail to submit vaccination documentation. 

A new outreach campaign from Emerson officials is attempting to inform students of the requirement via Instagram posts and emails from the Office of Campus Life, though communication didn’t begin until Oct. 8. Outreach will soon increase for students still unaware of the mandate, Muurisepp said.

“We will continue to reference it, and it will have some targeted specific emails just about the flu shot requirement,” he said. 

The Center for Health and Wellness is holding a two-hour immunization clinic before campus shutters for the semester, on Nov. 20. There, students can receive flu shots, which cost $33 without insurance. That cost is covered by the student health insurance plan. Students must pre-register for the clinic, as a limited supply of vaccines are available. The CHW held a similar clinic on Nov. 13.

“[The Center for Health and Wellness] ordered X number of vaccines,” Muurisepp said. “It’s pretty hard to increase that, so we were not able to increase that for this year based on this requirement.”

The college is also recommending immunization clinics near campus, like the CVS at the corner of Boylston and Washington streets, which costs about $40 without insurance. If a student already received an immunization but didn’t get documentation, Muurisepp said they should reach out to the clinic they visited.

“They should be able to get a receipt or some sort of documentation from them,” he said. “They can always go back to where they got it from.”