Isla Vista Beat Reporter
On July 31, the University of California President, Michael Drake, issued an executive order which requires all students, faculty, and staff on or near the University of California campuses to get an influenza vaccine by Nov. 1.
In response to this new mandate, UC Santa Barbara (UCSB) Student Health (SHS) is holding appointments for flu shots to make the vaccine available for students on campus and in Isla Vista.
Jackie Ruiz, a public information officer at the Santa Barbara County Public Health Department, emphasized the importance of receiving a vaccination by the end of October in an interview with the Bottom Line.
“From the Public Health Department perspective, we recommend getting a flu shot by the end of October as it takes about two weeks for antibodies to develop and protect you,” she said. The department also highly suggests a yearly flu vaccination for people six months or older.
The UC SHIP health insurance plan covers the cost of the flu vaccine, while students with SHS Gaucho Access Plan pay $15, and students who have waived both options pay $30. Aside from the offerings on campus, the vaccine is still accessible in Santa Barbara County. Many local pharmacies offer flu vaccines, according to Ruiz.
“Most insurance companies, including Medi-Cal, cover the cost of a flu shot,” she said.
Students who receive a vaccine outside of Student Health must use the Point N Click electronic health record system through the SHS portal to indicate that they received the influenza vaccination. This also includes students residing outside of the UCSB area.
Executive Director of Student Health Vejas Skripkus explained what happens if a student is not vaccinated before the deadline of Nov. 1: “They will remain non-compliant in the electronic health record until they either receive the vaccine and attest to having received it, or submit the flu exemption and attest to the exemption.”
Students in need of a medical exemption or accommodation can log on to the Student Health Portal to submit their requests for approval. It is unclear what the consequences are from UCSB for students who do not comply with the mandate by the start of November, but it is possible that a class registration block could be enacted.
As parties and large gatherings continue in Isla Vista with maskless attendees and little enforcement of social distancing, the flu might continue to spread throughout the community as active case numbers for COVID-19 are on an incline.
A weekly update shared by the UCSB’s external vice president for local affairs on Oct. 7 reported an increase of 10 new COVID-19 cases in Isla Vista. A more recent Oct. 12 update from UCSB radio station KCSB-FM 91.9 shows an increase of four COVID-19 cases since Friday, Oct. 9.
By requiring immunization for the 2020-21 flu season, UCSB is doing its part to protect its students, faculty, and the health of the surrounding community. If this critical step is taken, hospitals in Santa Barbara County will be able to preserve their resources and equipment for COVID-19 cases, Skripkas explained.
“The flu can strike anyone, and even young, healthy individuals can be out of commission for two weeks or more due to fever and fatigue,” said Skripkus.
“Because people of all ages can die from influenza, it’s critically important that we protect as much as possible the more vulnerable among us — our children, our parents, and our grandparents.”
Additional information on the 2020-21 flu season and vaccine can be found on the Centers for Disease Control Prevention (CDC) website.