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Flu shot mandated for fourth year, Oct. 27 deadline

Vivian Lang / Thresher

By Maria Morkas     9/5/23 11:29pm

Students are required to have their seasonal flu vaccination prior to the start of spring class registration, Oct. 27. To facilitate this process, the university is holding vaccine clinics Sept. 14, 19, 27 and Oct. 5, according to a campus-wide email sent by Student Health Services Aug. 28.

Director of Student Health Services Jessica McKelvey said the university first started expecting students get the flu vaccine in fall 2020 to prevent the combination of sickness from COVID and the flu.

McKelvey said that throughout the school year, many universities around the country had flu surges, but Rice had very few due to its commitment to flu prevention. 

“Prior to our flu vaccine expectation of students, we had large numbers of flu cases between Thanksgiving and the end of the semester,” McKelvey wrote. “Students can be very ill for over a week. So, this preventable illness can [wreak] havoc on an entire semester due to its timing during finals and length and severity of illness.”

Last year, on-campus clinics at the Rice Memorial Center vaccinated 3,521 students, McKelvey said. This year, Rice expects to provide more than 4,000 shots through clinics. Some students get vaccinated at Student Health, and others go off campus to physicians or pharmacies.

According to the estimates by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, between Oct.1, 2022, and April 30, 2023, there have been between 27 to 54 million flu illnesses, 12 to 26 million flu medical visits, 300,000 to 650,000 flu hospitalizations and 19,000 to 58,000 flu deaths.

Martel College junior Jasmine Pachuca said she thinks mandating the vaccine is the right choice, as students can forget how deadly influenza can be.

“We’ve all seen how easy it is for viruses to spread at Rice. A large portion of students live on-campus in very close proximity to one another,” Pachuca said. “If the flu vaccine were not mandatory, the rate of infection would be significantly higher.”

Lovett College sophomore Ayush Suresh said he thinks the mandated flu vaccines help make campus a safer community. 

“We see a lot of people getting sick [in the first few weeks] because they’re coming back from different places,” Suresh said. “People are able to handle that missed time [because it’s during the first few weeks of school], but certain people … might be immunocompromised and not able to. Even a small flu might hurt their bodies a lot.” 

McKelvey said Student Health organizes campus vaccine clinics so students can use their insurance programs to cover the vaccine. As a result, most students have a zero-dollar copay.

“Students are welcome to come to Rice Student Health for the vaccine,” McKelvey wrote. “It’s $18, which is at cost, and we give students a coded receipt to submit to their insurance companies. Both Rice Aetna student health and Wellfleet international student insurance reimburse for the vaccine.”

Suresh said he thought the vaccine was accessible on campus last year, especially with a prior appointment.

“For me, I had to get some insurance information so it took me a little bit longer than it should have, but the way that Rice set it up is pretty efficient,” Suresh said. “If you didn’t have an appointment set up, I think the lines were a little long, but they were still accepting people on the spot, so I thought that was really good.”

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