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?

Designated personnel who must receive the seasonal flu vaccine as a condition of employment or training will receive an individual email in September notifying them of the Washington University policy and how they can get the vaccine.

Generally, designated personnel includes all Washington University employees, faculty, staff, residents, fellows, students, temporary agency personnel, non- appointees, who provide patient care services or work in patient care or clinical care areas.

Who else is required to be vaccinated?

Contractors, trainees, vendors, visitors and volunteers who are sponsored by a department and plan to visit patient care areas on the Medical Campus from October 1, 2015 – March 31, 2016, must present documentation of an influenza vaccine for that current season before coming to the campus. It is the responsibility of the sponsoring department to ensure this requirement is satisfied. Please refer to Washington University School of Medicine’s Visitor Policy.

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 2016-2017 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. See the 2016 Flu Flyer.

What types of vaccines will be available?

For the 2016-2017 season, the CDC has made a recommendation that the live attenuated influenza vaccine ( FluMist) should not be used do to a concern over its effectiveness against influenza. The university will not be offering FluMist, nor will be accepted from an outside entity or physician as a valid vaccination.

Occupational and Student Health Services will be offering single-dose syringes of the AFLURIA flu vaccine. It is produced without thimerosal, a mercury derivative, and packaged in syringes that are latex free. Depending on availability from the manufacturer, we also are planning to offer Flublok, a vaccine manufactured without eggs and designed as an alternative for those who have an egg allergy or practicing vegans. We also will offer the Fluzone High-Dose vaccine to employees who are 65 years and older. These vaccine alternatives will only be offered at Occupational Health/Student Health by appointment and not at the flu clinics on the Medical Campus.

When is the deadline for getting the seasonal flu vaccination?

As a condition of employment and/or training, designated personnel must be vaccinated no later than December 1 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 December 1, 2016?

Designated employees and students who fail to obtain an influenza vaccination will be subject to remedial action which may include suspension without pay, termination, or denial of access to patient care or clinical areas. Your department chair and business office will be involved in the follow up on non-compliant employees.

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

Each year, Occupational and Student Health Services coordinates the flu vaccine program at Washington University. As in years past, free flu shots will be offered in central locations throughout the Medical School Campuses.

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, 2016, 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 Occupational/Student Health Services by December 1, 2016, 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 employee or coworker 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 their manager and Occupational Health.

When can someone who has the flu or flu-like symptoms return to work?

When they have been fever free for 24 hours, without using fever-reducing medication.

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 Occupational and 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 Occupational and Student Health Services at: before December 1, 2016.

What is needed for a medical exemption?

Exemptions to mandatory flu vaccination may be granted based on certain medical conditions related to the vaccine. These include:

  • Hypersensitivity to a component of the flu vaccine (developing hives, swelling of the lips or tongue, or acute difficulty breathing.)  Since the egg-free vaccine, Flublok, has been approved by the FDA for those 18 years and older; an exemption request citing an egg allergy or sensitivity will not be accepted.
  • History of Guillain-Barre Syndrome (GBS) within six weeks of receiving a flu vaccination

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 Leanne Stewart (Manager, Employee Relations) at or faxed to WUSM Human Resources fax (314) 362-7196 before December 1, 2016.

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 December 1, 2016, 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.