The University of Denver announced that students and staff members must get the flu vaccine by mid-December.
The university introduced rigid regulations to manage COVID-19 on campus. Students and staff are required to take saliva tests every nine days. Currently, the school reports an infection rate under 1%.
“If history tells us anything, we expect it is very likely going to be a very aggressive flu season,” said Michael LaFarr, the Executive Director of Health and Counseling at DU. “It’s a part of our overall plan to protect our community. The health and wellbeing of our community.”
Because of the similarities between coronavirus and flu symptoms, LaFarr said the new vaccination requirement is a necessary precaution. The school will offer vaccine clinics for the rest of the semester.
“From people living in the residence halls to close proximity of the classrooms, it puts us at greater risk than other environments,” he added. “So, we need as many safety mechanisms along the way to protect and we’ve got a vaccine.”
Gov. Jared Polis said on Oct. 18 that keeping the flu infection rate low was vital since over 1,000 Colorado residents are currently hospitalized due to COVID-19. He said a serious flu outbreak would strain the state’s hospitals.
“We are in a situation where we simply can’t afford as a state to have our normal flu numbers, we’ve got to beat this thing,” Polis said. “We’ve got to keep that number low and the best way to do that is get vaccinated.”
A recent study published in the Journal of Infectious Diseases predicts severe influenza outbreaks when the COVID-19 restrictions are lifted.
The study, conducted by researchers from Columbia University Mailman School of Health, also predicts that levels of flu will be higher in the following years.
“Non-pharmaceutical interventions (NPIs), such as mask-wearing, physical distancing, travel restrictions, and school closures, led to a 60% drop in flu infections during the 10 weeks after their introduction last year. The study suggests that the reduced exposure to flu during the control measures will have led to reduced immunity,” reports Medical News Today.
Other medical professionals have suggested that — because of the COVID-19 pandemic — the flu was underreported last year, making statistical modeling of infections less reliable this year.
The University of Denver is not the only school introducing a flu vaccination requirement. Michael Drake, the president of the University of California system, announced all students and staff members had until November 19 to get a flu inoculation.
“With the COVID-19 pandemic continuing, the potential confluence of infections from COVID-19 and influenza poses a threat to the health and safety of the UC community and the public at large,” UC officials said, per The College Fix.
According to Drake’s statement, community members who do not want to comply must submit a Vaccine Declination Statement to their location’s “vaccine authority.” Unvaccinated students and staff members may be required to wear “masks or specialized personal protective equipment” or undergo “routine testing” for influenza.