Flu Season Information

The most effective means to limit the spread of illness is to get a flu vaccine.

Getting vaccinated against the influenza (flu) is the best way to protect ourselves and our family, friends, and colleagues from the flu. The flu vaccine is a protective measure-- you cannot get the flu from it.  

Getting a flu vaccine during the 2020-21 flu season will be more important than ever, not only to reduce your risk from the flu, but also to help conserve potentially scarce healthcare resources during the COVID-19 pandemic.

No-cost Flu Vaccinations at Columbia

Columbia Health is providing no out of pocket cost flu vaccines to students, faculty, and staff from the following populations:

  • Morningside Campus
  • Manhattanville Campus
  • Lamont Doherty Earth Observatory
  • Nevis Laboratory
  • Jewish Theological Seminary
  • Teachers College
  • Union Theological Seminary

*Barnard and CUIMC affiliates should contact their respective campuses for flu vaccine opportunities. 

The flu vaccine is mandatory for students coming onto campus this academic year (and must be obtained before October 30, 2020 or prior to arriving on campus), and strongly recommended for all other members of the Columbia community. 

For those over 65 years of age, only the regular dose flu vaccine is available through Columbia Health at this time. For those wishing to get the high dose vaccine, please check with your primary care clinician or local pharmacy. 

How to Get Your Flu Vaccine

  1. Eligible students, faculty, and staff can schedule an appointment using the Patient Portal. There will be no walk-in vaccinations to ensure physical distancing. 

    Remember: You must get your gateway COVID-19 test results before getting a flu vaccine.  
     
  2. Flu vaccination appointments are available in Lerner Hall, Monday to Friday, 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM ET. Appointments are being added regularly so please check back if your first choice of date and time is not available. Generally, appointments are available 10-14 days in advance.  
     
  3. On the day of your appointment, attest on ReOpenCU, wear a face covering, bring your University ID card, and follow signs and staff instructions. The flu vaccine clinic area is accessible only via the campus entrance of Lerner Hall and a one directional flow is required. 

In keeping with University public health measures, the flu vaccine clinic staff will be wearing appropriate personal protective equipment and sanitize check-in and vaccine administration points regularly. 

Any person that schedules and is subsequently found to be ineligible for a flu vaccine from Columbia Health (prior to appointment or on arrival) will be referred to the appropriate, population-specific resources.

Accessibility

The flu clinic location is wheelchair accessible. If you require sign-language interpreting services to communicate with our health care providers or large print or electronic information, please contact Disability Services at disability@columbia.edu or (212) 854-2388. 

Getting a Flu Vaccine off Campus

Students  

Students on the Columbia Student Health Insurance Plan can get a flu vaccine at their local pharmacy or primary care provider. There is no co-payment, unless you request a high-dose flu vaccine.  

Remember to upload your documentation to Patient Portal by October 30, 2020.  Use these instructions for assistance.

Faculty and staff  

Check with your insurance company to find out if you must go to a specific facility to receive the vaccine. Some insurance plans only cover vaccines given by your doctor or at a limited set of locations. 

Sign up to receive e-mail updates about the seasonal flu vaccine.

Requesting a Medical or Religious Exemption

Columbia University is committed to providing a safe, inclusive, and supportive experience for all students and recognizes medical contraindications to vaccination as well as student observance of their faith as it pertains to the practice of immunization. 

To request a medical or religious exemption, please complete the appropriate request form (found below), read the Flu Vaccine Information Statement, attach all supplemental materials, and upload all documents to the Columbia Health Patient Portal.

Exemptions requests will not be considered if incomplete documentation is submitted. Each complete request is carefully reviewed and a determination is made based on the information submitted.  All requests are considered but approval is not guaranteed.  Please note that all exemptions are temporary and must be renewed as noted in the instructions. 

Please allow 7-10 business days for requests to be processed. Upon review, you will be notified in writing whether an exemption has been granted. 

Influenza Medical Immunization Exemption Request Form

Influenza Religious Exemption Request Form

Frequently Asked Questions

Who is eligible? 

Columbia Health is providing no out of pocket cost flu vaccines to students, faculty, and staff from the following populations:

  • Morningside Campus
  • Manhattanville Campus
  • Lamont Doherty Earth Observatory
  • Nevis Laboratory
  • Jewish Theological Seminary
  • Teachers College
  • Union Theological Seminary

Barnard and CUIMC affiliates should contact their respective campuses for flu vaccine opportunities.  

Can I get the high-dose vaccine at the Columbia Health flu clinic? 

For those over 65 years of age, only the regular dose flu vaccine is available through Columbia Health at this time. For those wishing to get the high dose vaccine, please check with your primary care clinician or local pharmacy. 

Flu & COVID-19

What’s the difference between flu and coronavirus?

Both the flu virus and coronavirus (which causes COVID-19) are causes of contagious upper respiratory illnesses. The flu and COVID-19 have similar symptoms, which can include fever, cough, shortness of breath, muscle aches, runny or stuffy nose, sore throat, feeling tired, and headache. The severity of symptoms can vary, and those with the flu or a mild case of COVID-19 may be able to recuperate at home. One notable difference is that COVID-19 may also include loss of taste or smell, which is not a symptom associated with the flu. Testing may be necessary to determine which virus is causing illness. There is an antiviral treatment available for the flu, but not one widely available for COVID-19. The mortality rate for COVID-19 is also greater than that of the flu.

In what ways are the viruses similar? 

The amount of time it can take between when a person is exposed to either virus and when they could experience symptoms is similar for flu (1-4 days) and coronavirus (2-14 days). However, people exposed to coronavirus may experience more of a delay between exposure to symptoms and be more contagious than those with the flu. A person with COVID-19 may also be contagious for a longer period of time  (still being studied, but have been found to be contagious up to 10 days after testing positive) than a person with the flu (for about 7 days, but most contagious during first 3-4 days). 

Sources: https://www.cdc.gov/flu/symptoms/flu-vs-covid19.htm; https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/coronavirus/in-depth/coronavirus-vs-flu/art-20490339 

Can I get the flu and coronavirus at the same time? 

Yes; and it is not yet known how common it will be for individuals to have both at the same time, or if the illnesses will be more severe if they occur together. Because the symptoms are similar, it may make it hard to tell whether one or both viruses might be causing illness. 

Sources: https://www.cdc.gov/flu/symptoms/flu-vs-covid19.htm; https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/coronavirus/in-depth/coronavirus-vs-flu/art-20490339 

Can the flu vaccine protect me against coronavirus? Am I more likely to get coronavirus if I get the flu vaccine?

No, the flu vaccine will only reduce the risk of getting sick from the flu or reducing the severity of the flu if you do get it. The flu vaccine will also not increase the risk of getting COVID-19. And, as more people get the flu vaccine, the potential burden on health resources is lessened which allows for health care services to be reserved for other issues. 

Source: https://www.cdc.gov/flu/season/faq-flu-season-2020-2021.htm#anchor_1591372261934

Are the flu and coronavirus prevention strategies the same?

Yes. The steps you take to prevent one also help prevent the other.  Wearing face coverings, keeping a 6ft physical distance, washing and sanitizing hands regularly, and staying home if not feeling well are all steps that help prevent the spread of flu and coronavirus.

Are there tests that will detect the flu and coronavirus?

Yes, there are different tests to detect whether a person has strain A or B of the influenza virus and to detect if a person has the SARS-COV-2 virus (the virus that causes COVID-19).

Should I still get a flu vaccine even though we practice physical distancing? 

Yes, you can safely get the flu vaccine. Flu vaccines may also be available at your health care provider’s office, your local department of health, or even pharmacies. The CDC has issued pandemic guidance for vaccines to health care professionals, so you can ask your health care provider if they are administering vaccines with that guidance.  

Source: https://www.cdc.gov/flu/season/faq-flu-season-2020-2021.htm#anchor_1591372261934

What if I have a medical or religious reason for not getting a flu vaccine? 

Morningside students should follow the procedures outlined on the Columbia Health website to request a medical or religious exemption from the flu vaccine requirement.

 

 

Resources: 

Preventive Measures

  • Get a flu vaccine!
  • Use good hand hygiene. Wash your hands often with soap and water, especially after you cough or sneeze. Alcohol-based hand cleansers are equally effective.
  • Try to avoid casually touching your eyes, nose, or mouth.
  • Avoid close contact, such as hugging or kissing, with others who are ill.
  • Avoid sharing food, utensils, cups, and water bottles.
  • Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue or your elbow when coughing or sneezing.
  • If you become ill, stay home and limit your contact with others to keep from exposing them.
  • Disinfect surfaces with a household cleaner, focusing on light switches, handles, telephones, doorknobs, and other surfaces people touch frequently.
  • Remain in your residence hall or at home for at least 24 hours after you no longer have fever (without the use of medications that reduce fever, like Motrin or Tylenol).

CDC Guidelines for Seasonal Flu Shot

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued universal guidance recommending all individuals six (6) months of age or older receive the seasonal flu shot. It is especially important for those in the following high-risk groups to receive a shot due to risk of serious flu-related complications or because they live with or care for people at high risk of developing flu-related complications:

  • Pregnant women
  • Children younger than five (5) years of age
  • People 50 years of age or older
  • People of any age with certain chronic medical conditions (asthma, diabetes, etc.)
  • People who live in nursing homes or other long-term care facilities
  • People who live with or care for those at high risk for complications from the flu, including:
    • Healthcare workers
    • Household contacts of persons at high risk for complications of the flu
    • Household contacts or caregivers of children less than six (6) months old

The flu vaccine is generally safe and effective, and utilizes an inactivated flu vaccine, which contains killed viruses. The flu vaccine protects against multiple flu viruses.