University considers flu shot requirement for students before they return for spring semester

Isabella Gentile, Editor-in-Chief

With increasing concerns about the upcoming flu season and potential outbreaks of both flu and COVID-19, Roger Williams University is considering a new course of action: requiring all students to have flu shots before they return for classes next semester.

Vice President of Student Life John King raised the idea at the Student Senate meeting on Sept. 28, which he attended in efforts to convince Senate to support the plan. King said the vaccine is not being required now because it would be a new policy and something people were not aware of before the start of this semester.

“The primary goal here is to ensure that as many members of our university community are immunized against the flu so that we don’t have to deal with both the flu and COVID and we don’t have any over utilization of area hospitals at the end of this semester or next semester,” King said.

If any students have medical reasons that prevent them from being able to have flu shots, they would be eligible for medical exemptions. Exemptions due to financial ability and religious beliefs could be set into stone too.

Though some of the student senators expressed support for the plan, multiple concerns were raised about the idea.

Student Senate Finance Chair Ainsley Iovanna said she is personally in favor of the policy but concerned that it could be an overstep by the university. She said not all health insurances cover the flu shot and she finds it troubling that the university would make the vaccine mandatory if not everyone had the ability to pay for it.

“It’s concerning that the university would make that mandatory because everyone has different capabilities when it comes to money and if anything the university should support them in getting that,” Iovanna said.

King responded by saying the university could consider economic exemptions for students and also look into ways to subsidize a student’s cost on behalf of the university if their health insurance didn’t cover it.

“The goal is to get as many people as possible, so if there’s some people that can’t afford to get it and we can’t help them, obviously we’re not going to prohibit those folks from coming to campus second semester,” King said.

The university is offering four student flu clinics in the Rec Center this month. They are set to take place on Oct. 12 from 11:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Oct. 16 from 11 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Oct. 19 and Oct. 26 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. The clinic is free to students as long as their insurance covers it and if not there is a nominal fee.

King feels if the university lets students know about a flu shot requirement this week, they will have ample time to attend a flu clinic or if they choose not to get their shot here, they can do so when they go home for Thanksgiving. He said the university will track students who come to the flu clinics and students who receive the vaccine at home can provide information from their own doctors.

King thinks this requirement is something most students will sign onto and most parents will probably support. Student Life Chair for Student Senate Jordan St. Onge raised a point that there could be backlash from some students on campus, but said safety is the main priority.

“If we want to keep our students safe, I think this is a good idea,” St. Onge said. “Will it receive backlash? Maybe, but at the end of the day, I think it’s about student safety.”