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FluFest offers free vaccines to on-campus and off-campus students

In early October, University Health Services (UHS) will offer students, faculty, and staff free flu shots at its annual FluFest, held in Jadwin Gymnasium.

Students living on campus and those approved to visit campus for ROTC or research purposes will be required to receive a flu shot by Nov. 6. Students living locally off campus will also be allowed to attend FluFest to receive a free immunization. 

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In an email to The Daily Princetonian, UHS Executive Director Dr. John Kolligian emphasized the importance of annual flu immunizations, particularly in the face of COVID-19 this year. 

“The prevention of the flu remains as important this year as every year. In addition, this flu season will coincide with COVID-19 still circulating,” he wrote. 

“This means that preventing the flu during 2020–2021 is more important than ever, not least because a high number of hospital admissions due to flu could overwhelm already stretched health care systems,” Kolligian continued.

According to an email that Kolligian sent to students on Sept. 16, students required to receive a flu shot may do so either through FluFest or via an outside pharmacy. Students receiving flu shots outside of FluFest will be required to submit documentation to UHS.

Overall, students reacted positively to the announcement. Samuel Frank ’22, who is currently living locally off campus, was glad to hear that the University is expanding FluFest to allow for off-campus students. 

“It is important that as many off-campus students as possible get the vaccine,” Frank said. “If we don’t, it definitely poses a threat to the Princeton community that we know and love so much.”

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Victoria Merengwa ’24, a student living on campus, expressed some concerns about the vaccination requirement, but said the event would benefit students living on campus.

“I’ve never gotten a flu shot in my life … so I guess I’m kind of scared of what will happen if I get one. But I still think it’s a good [pre]caution to have, and the fact that it’s free is very beneficial for us students on campus,” she said. 

Students exempt from the immunization requirement for religious or health reasons are required to follow UHS’s guidelines for exemption.

When asked about the decisions to require immunizations for on-campus students and to allow off-campus students to attend FluFest, Kolligian emphasized University Health Services’ goal to expand coverage of the vaccine. 

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“We have a responsibility to our local community as well as to our enrolled students, even if they are not visiting the campus currently, to protect their health during this time,” Kolligian wrote. 

“Making flu shots free and accessible to everyone in the Princeton University community means we are playing a role in protecting high-risk individuals and not overburdening our healthcare partners,” he continued.

Kolligian highlighted the challenge of responding to dual epidemics of the flu and COVID-19.

“The flu and COVID-19 share many symptoms. This similarity will create the additional medical challenge of having to distinguish between the two when people become ill,” he wrote. 

“We also do not know what the combination of COVID-19 and influenza will mean for people who get infected at the same time or close together, but there is concern that the combination could lead to serious complications,” he continued.

Flu vaccination clinics will take precautions to prevent spread of COVID-19. Regular disinfection, mandatory face coverings, respiratory and hand hygiene, and social distancing will all be part of protocol during FluFest this year. 

“UHS will follow the CDC’s pandemic guidance for the safe delivery of vaccine services, and do everything possible to make sure that the clinic participation is an easy and safe experience for all,” Kolligian wrote.

The FluFest will be open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m on October 1, 2, 5, 6, 7, 13, and 14 at Jadwin Gym. Students and faculty must present their PUID to receive a free vaccine. 

Students unable to attend FluFest at the scheduled times are encouraged to schedule a time to receive their vaccination by calling (609) 258-3141. Students under the age of 18 are not permitted to receive a flu shot from FluFest, and should also contact this number to schedule an appointment at McCosh Health Center. 

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