College community required to have influenza immunization prior to their return to campus

By Victoria Gill-Gomez

News Editor

In preparation for Washington College students returning to campus for the spring semester, the Contingency Planning Group and Health Services advised students living on campus and in town, faculty, and staff of vaccine requirements prior to their arrival in January.

On Tuesday, Oct. 20, the CPG sent a campus email detailing the vaccination requirement for influenza in order to reduce “the overall impact of the respiratory illness during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control Prevention, “flu vaccines will not prevent COVID-19, but they will reduce the burden of flu illnesses, hospitalizations and deaths on the health care system and conserve scarce medical resources for the care of people with COVID-19.”

According to Maryland health regulations, no one is exempt from receiving the flu vaccine during an emergency or epidemic.

According to this CPG email, all students returning to campus in the spring must provide proof of an annual influenza vaccine two weeks prior to the move-in date, just as they would with their COVID-19 test results. 

Students who will be living in Chestertown and will have access to the campus are required to provide this information by Feb. 1, the first day of spring classes.

Students already in Chestertown are required to provide proof of vaccination by Dec. 1.

This information can be posted on the Student Health Portal. Students are able to get proof from their medical providers in the form of a receipt, certificate, or immunization booklet.

According to Health Services, they were partnering with the Chestertown Walgreens to hold an on-campus clinic specifically for flu shots on Nov. 4 in a tent in front of Health Services. 

While many students are able to get the flu shot, often for free at local pharmacies, students are suggested to call Health Services directly in the possibility that they may not have access to a health service provider.

The CDC said that the influenza vaccine is provided with an injection, usually in the arm. The common, “seasonal flu shots,” according to the CDC website, protect individuals from around three to four strains of the virus.

These symptoms, according to the CDC, include: “soreness, redness, and/or swelling where the shot was given, headache (low grade), fever, nausea, muscle aches, and fatigue. The flu shot, like other injections, can occasionally cause fainting.” These symptoms can oftentimes be onset by the common cold after their immune system has been weakened.

Students should note that life-threatening reactions to the flu shot are rare.

According to the CDC, students should watch for symptoms relating to the flu such as fever, chills, coughing, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, aches in the muscles or body, headaches, fatigue, and in some cases vomiting and diarrhea, which is more common in children than adults. 

Students should also note that not every flu will have a fever.

To prevent contracting this virus, Health Services recommends that the College community take preventative measures such as washing their hands and other heavily used surfaces; covering their cough or sneeze with a tissue or their elbow, not their hands; and continuing a healthy diet of fiber and vitamins.

As students arrive on campus for the spring semester, the CPG announced the College’s partnership with the Emocha Health app to track symptoms related to the flu or the possible contraction of COVID-19.

Students who are symptomatic with either the flu or COVID-19, as they have similar symptoms, according to the CPG website, will receive instructions about distancing and next steps.

“Integrity and honesty each day will be critical to keeping each other healthy and safe, as will not trying to ‘power through’ a day on campus if you are experiencing any of the symptoms,” the CPG webpage said.

Usually, the monitoring period for someone using the Emocha Health app itself lasts around 90 days. The Emocha solutions team will advise users when their monitoring period is complete.

Students currently on campus like junior Kennett Vail-Rojas said the health regulations on campus right now are standard: face masks when in various campus-buildings, tracking his symptoms through the Emocha Health app, and planning his upcoming flu vaccine.

“I get flu shots fairly inconsistently but I do advocate for them. Flu is still one of the deadliest viruses we contend with so any protection is useful,” he said.

According to Vail-Rojas, while the daily check-in on the Emocha Health app is simple to manage as another everyday responsibility, it is “very easy to forget about.”

Students experiencing symptoms including cough, fever, and shortness of breath should call Health Services at 410-778-7261 Monday–Friday from 8:30 a.m.–12 p.m. and 1 p.m.–4 p.m.). If it is after hours or the weekend, students are suggested to call Public Safety at 410-778-7810. If it is an emergency call 911. 

Featured Photo caption: Health Services can be found on the other side of Washington Avenue between Queen Anne’s House and Carline House. While their daily hours have altered due to the pandemic, medical professional and clinical counselors can still be reached for virtual calls and consultations. Photo by Marah Vain Callahan.

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