University of California Mandates Influenza Vaccination for All Students and Employees This Fall

The University of California has decided to require all students and employees to receive influenza vaccines by November 1, 2020.

During the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic, where COVID-19, like influenza, results in respiratory symptoms, it is even more critical than usual to assure widespread vaccination. As California progresses through its roadmap, the possibility of an outbreak or surge that overwhelms the health care system and causes hospitals to adopt crisis standards of care necessarily increases –as of July 20, 2020, thousands of new cases are being reported every day and hospitals are experiencing shortages of testing supplies and medications necessary to treat COVID-19. Population-level interventions that decrease the likelihood of disease transmission, hospitalization, and ICU utilization must therefore be considered and adopted where feasible.

1. Each campus shall strongly encourage universal vaccination for all students, faculty, staff, and their families by October 31, 2020. Subject only to the exemptions and processes described below or in Attachment A:

a. Deadline. Effective November 1, 2020, all students, faculty, and staff living, learning, or working at any UC location must receive a flu vaccine.

b. Students. The Immunization Policy is hereby amended to add influenza vaccine to the list of required vaccines for the duration of a statewide or any local public health emergency declared in response to the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic. Student exemption requests shall be adjudicated consistent with the ImmunizationExemption Policy.

c. Employees. Effective November 1, 2020, no person employed by the University or working on-site at any location owned, operated, or otherwise controlled by the University may report to that site for work unless they have received the 2020-2021 flu vaccine or an approved medical exemption. Requests for disability or religious accommodations will be adjudicated through the interactive process consistent with existing location policies and procedures.

Google Flu Tracker Fail

New Scientist sums up a study finding that Google’s much-hyped flu tracker–where the company supposedly can predict flu outbreaks based simply volume of search queries for flu-related terms–doesn’t actually work very well.

The system has consistently overestimated flu-related visits over the past three years, and was especially inaccurate around the peak of flu season – when such data is most useful. In the 2012/2013 season, it predicted twice as many doctors’ visits as the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) eventually recorded. In 2011/2012 it overestimated by more than 50 per cent.

Interesting. The most surprising part of this outcome, however, is that lead author of the study is actually surprised that Google hasn’t fixed this,

The study’s lead author, David Lazer, of Northeastern University, says the fixes for Google’s problems are relatively simple – much like recalibrating weighing scales. “It’s a bit of a puzzle, because it really wouldn’t have taken that much work to substantially improve the performance of Google Flu Trends,” he says.

That wouldn’t surprise anyone who actually uses any Google products or services at all. There are dozens of simple, easy things that Google could do to improve any number of their products, including bugs that users have been complaining about for years., that Google chooses to ignore.

Why should it be any different with the flu? Clearly the problem with the flu tracker is the influenza virus’ unwillingness to conform to Google’s business practices rather than any actual defect in its software or approach to predicting flu cases.