Flu Season Information

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

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

How to Get Your Flu Vaccine 

The Fall 2021 flu clinic at Lerner Hall Auditorium has ended.

Students (and staff who are also students) must schedule an appointment with Medical Services to get your flu shot. Please call to make an appointment with a nurse at (212) 854-7426.  Nursing appointments can not be self-scheduled on the Patient Portal at this time.

Faculty and staff must get their flu vaccine off campus.

Getting a Flu Vaccine Off Campus


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 and enter the date the vaccine was received in the Medical Clearances section of the Columbia Health Patient Portal before November 30 (step-by-step instructions).  

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. 

Faculty and staff who are also students are required to get the flu vaccine due to their student status. 

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

Students 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.

Exemption 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

Eligibility for the no-cost flu clinic at Lerner Hall Auditorium

These no out-of-pocket cost flu vaccines are available for students, faculty, and staff from: 

  • 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.  

For those over 65 years of age, Columbia Health has a limited supply of the high-dose vaccine. Please speak to the nurse administering your vaccine if you may be eligible for the high-dose flu vaccine. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Who is eligible? 

Columbia Health is providing no out-of-pocket cost flu vaccines to students, faculty, and staff at the flu clinic at Lerner Hall Auditorium 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, Columbia Health has a limited supply of the high dose vaccine. Please speak to the nurse administering your vaccine if you may be eligible for the high dose flu vaccine. You may also check with your primary care clinician or local pharmacy. 

Flu & COVID-19

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

Is it safe to get a COVID-19 vaccine if I have gotten a flu vaccine and vice versa?

Yes. The COVID-19 vaccine can be administered at the same time as the flu vaccine. Both will be available in the Lerner Hall location. Please use the Patient Portal to schedule your COVID-19 vaccine appointment or check if walk-in COVID-19 vaccination is available that day. 

Source: https://www.cdc.gov/flu/season/faq-flu-season-2020-2021.htm#Getting-a-Flu-Vaccine-during-the-COVID-19-Pandemic

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 6 ft 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.

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

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).

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.

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 


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.
  • Continue wearing masks indoors (and outdoors too). 
  • 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.