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Univ. of California Mandating Flu Shots for All Students, Faculty, and Staff

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I just got this e-mail; my sense is that this is pretty novel, though some other universities have adopted it recently as well.

To support the health and well-being of UC students, faculty and staff and our communities, the University of California, in consultation with UC Health leadership, has issued a systemwide executive order (PDF) requiring all members of the UC community to receive an influenza immunization before Nov. 1, 2020….

In addition to protecting those on campuses and the surrounding communities, this requirement is designed to avoid a surge of flu cases at health care facilities across the state during the unprecedented public health crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic….

In recent years, flu vaccinations have reduced the risk of flu-associated hospitalizations among older adults on average by about 40 percent. Flu vaccinations also protect those around us, including those who are more vulnerable to serious flu illness.

The executive order requires the vaccination for all faculty and staff who are working at a UC location. The university already has a clear policy on immunizations for students, and this action adds influenza to existing vaccination requirements for them, and extends the requirement to faculty and staff beyond those which presently exist for all UC health care workers.

A process will be put in place for faculty and staff to request medical exemptions. Requests for disability or religious accommodations will be handled through the interactive process consistent with existing location policies and procedures.

All UC medical plans which cover faculty, staff and students include coverage for flu vaccinations at no cost to those covered by the plan. In addition, for those without group health care coverage, all ACA-compliant health plans also cover flu vaccinations as part of a preventive care package that includes no copay.

I don’t object to this; I think it’s generally legitimate for institutions (government or otherwise) to protect their clients (including students) and employees from the risk of harm—including inadvertent harm—inflicted by other clients and employees. And my sense is that, on balance, the immunizations do reduce this risk at what strikes me as modest cost in personal liberty. We’ve concluded this as to many more serious illnesses, but I think it’s also true for the flu, which tends to be less serious but is still potentially deadly. Still, I imagine some of our readers might disagree, and in any event I thought it worth flagging.


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Eugene Volokh

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