Frequently Asked Questions

Why does Washington University require seasonal flu vaccinations?

To keep our patients and employees safe from influenza, Washington University is requiring designated personnel to get the annual flu vaccine. Unvaccinated employees can spread the flu to patients, co-workers, families and visitors even if employees themselves don’t have symptoms.

How will I know if I’m required to get a flu shot?

As a condition of employment, enrollment and/or access to Washington University facilities, all Washington University faculty, staff, trainees (including postdocs, residents and fellows) and students, who are working or studying on campus or any other Washington University work location for any length of time, must receive an annual influenza vaccination by the annual deadline, unless granted an exemption for medical contraindications or religious beliefs.



Why do I need a seasonal flu vaccine every year?

The seasonal flu vaccine protects you against strains of influenza that research indicates will be most common in the United States during the 2020-2021 flu season. People should get vaccinated every year because even if the viruses in the vaccine are the same as the year before, immunity to flu viruses declines over time and may be too low to provide protection after a year.

I don’t have patient contact. Why am I required to get vaccinated?

Everyone at Washington University who is not vaccinated is at risk of contracting the flu and spreading the flu to others. By increasing influenza immunization rates among designated personnel, our goal is to prevent as many cases of influenza as possible among our patients and our employees, students and other workers.

When will the free seasonal flu vaccinations be available?

Vaccinations will be available beginning in late September.

What types of vaccines will be available?

 Student Health Services will be offering single-dose syringes of the Flucelvax Quadrivalent flu vaccine. It is produced without thimerosal, a mercury derivative, and packaged in syringes that are latex free.

When is the deadline for getting the mandatory seasonal flu vaccination?

As a condition of employment and/or training, all WUSM students must be vaccinated no later than November 16th  for seasonal flu. This is the last date by which the vaccination must be obtained to avoid suspension and potential loss of employment or access to patient areas.

What happens if I don’t comply by November 16th?

Individuals who fail to obtain an influenza vaccination or exemption by the announced deadline  may be subject to an unpaid suspension or academic suspension for a period of up to 45 days and/or a suspension of their ability to access Washington University facilities.

If an influenza vaccination or exemption has not been obtained by the end of the 45-day period, or by the deadline, individuals may be subject to further remedial and disciplinary action, including but not limited to denial of access to University facilities, referral to the appropriate Associate Dean and/or Committee on Academic and Professional Evaluation of Students, suspension or dismissal from applicable programs, and/or termination of employment or service contract.

How and where can I get my free seasonal flu shot?

Please feel free to receive your free influenza vaccine by walking-through the Student Health vaccination station during the dates and times posted.

I got vaccinated at my doctor’s office (or another location). What do I need to do?

If you were vaccinated any time after August 1, 2020, you must provide written documentation that you were vaccinated (even if you received your vaccination from an affiliated entity such as BJC Healthcare, St. Louis Children’s Hospital, Barnes-Jewish Hospital, the Rehabilitation Institute of St. Louis, etc.). Documentation such as a written note from your physician or a copy of your flu shot receipt should be emailed to Student Health Services by November 16th, at

Can I get a flu vaccine if I am pregnant or breastfeeding?

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), pregnant women and breastfeeding moms are among those strongly recommended to get the flu vaccine. Pregnant women are at high risk of complications from the flu if they become ill during their pregnancy. A breastfeeding mom should be vaccinated so she does not pass along the illness to her baby.

I am feeling ill today, should I receive the vaccination?

Individuals who are moderately or severely ill with or without fever should usually wait until they recover before getting the flu vaccine. Employees with a fever and/or influenza symptoms should stay at home until they are fever free for 24 without the use of fever-reducing medication such as Tylenol.

Can my family member come to Washington University for a free seasonal flu vaccination?

Family members are not included in the Washington University vaccination program. However, some hospitals and service organizations have community events with free flu vaccinations.

My classmate has flu symptoms – what should I do?

If they have a fever (over 100.4F) and respiratory or gastrointestinal symptoms, they should not be at work. Inform Student Health Service at 314-362-3523.


I got the flu from the flu shot last time.

Flu vaccines CANNOT cause the flu. The viruses in flu vaccines are either killed or weakened.

The vaccine works by priming your body’s defenses in case you are exposed to an actual flu virus. If you did get “the flu” after receiving the vaccination, there are several explanations:

You may have been exposed to the influenza virus shortly before getting vaccinated or during the two-week period it takes the body to gain the vaccine’s protective benefits.

You may have been ill from other (non-flu) viruses, which can also cause flu-like symptoms (such as rhinovirus). You may have been exposed to a flu virus that is not included in the vaccine, as there are occasionally other influenza virus strains around that were not included in the vaccine.

I’ve never gotten the flu and have never had a vaccination. Why do I need one?

The CDC recommends that most people 6 months and older be vaccinated each year, especially those working in health care. Patient safety begins with immunizing ourselves. Studies have shown that in mild flu seasons, healthcare personnel were infected with influenza but were not sick enough to call off work. However, they were contagious and able to spread flu to their patients and coworkers.

I don’t consider the flu to be dangerous so I don’t need a shot.

Influenza can have serious medical complications leading to more than 200,000 hospitalizations and as many as 49,000 deaths a year. Studies have consistently shown that vaccination is the best protection against the flu. As health care providers, we must take precautions to ensure the safest work environment possible.

I don’t think flu vaccines really work.

The ability of the vaccine to protect against the flu depends on the age and health status of the person getting the vaccine. It also depends on how closely matched the virus strains in the vaccine are with the virus going around. When the vaccine strains and the virus strains are well matched, it can reduce the chances of health-care workers getting the flu by 88 percent. The vaccine may be less effective in some patients, including the elderly and very young children, but it can still prevent serious complications. Protecting our patients is another good reason for designated personnel to get vaccinated.

 What are the adverse side effects of the seasonal vaccine?

The adverse side effects of the vaccine are minimal. Some people experience a sore arm that lasts a day or two, but does not prevent them from doing normal activities. Some people who are getting the vaccine for the first time may experience a mild fever and a few aches that last about 24 hours.

What is required for exemption?

There are two types of exemptions, medical and religious.

How do I request a medical exemption?

All requests for medical exemption must be submitted to Student Health Services using the Washington University medical exemption form. This form can be obtained online.

The form does have a section that must be completed by your physician. The completed medical exemption form must be emailed to Student Health Services at: before November 16th.

What is needed for a medical exemption?

Medical:  Exemptions to mandatory vaccination may be granted based on certain medical contraindications, including history or documented test indications of severe allergy to the vaccine or its components and history of Guillain-Barré syndrome.  Individuals seeking a medical exemption must submit an exemption request form and documentation of medical contraindications (see Appendix 1) by deadline.  Unless otherwise determined by the University, medical exemptions are valid only for the flu season in which they are granted.  If individuals who have received a medical exemption subsequently choose to receive the vaccination, they must provide acceptable medical certification before receiving vaccination from the University.

How do I request religious exemption?

Exemptions to mandatory vaccination may be granted based on sincerely held religious beliefs, practices or observances. To request a religious exemption, you must complete the religious exemption form.

Exemption requests must be emailed to: before November 16th.

What happens if I decline a flu vaccination for reasons other than medical or religious?

The seasonal flu vaccine is a condition of employment for designated personnel. If you are not vaccinated for seasonal flu by November 16th, or have not been granted a medical or religious exemption, you face suspension and potential loss of employment or access to patient areas.


If you have additional questions, please talk with your manager.