Compliance with Testing & Flu Vaccine Requirements

Cornell's Behavioral Compact for Fall 2020 outlines several important steps that students must take as they return to Ithaca. In addition to requiring the wearing of masks and engagement in physical distancing, the Compact requires students to participate in ongoing surveillance testing for COVID-19 and to be vaccinated against seasonal influenza. Collectively, these measures are critical for reducing viral infections within our community and also protecting the most vulnerable among us (e.g., older individuals and people with pre-existing health conditions). Access to COVID-19 testing and flu vaccine is made available for all students by systems put in place at the beginning of the school year.

A history of mistreatment & lack of access to appropriate care

We recognize that, due to longstanding systemic racism and health inequities in this country, individuals from some marginalized communities may have concerns about needing to agree to such requirements. For example, historically, the bodies the of Black, Indigenous, and other People of Color (BIPOC) have been mistreated, and used by people in power, sometimes for profit or medical gain. It is understandable that the current Compact requirements may feel suspect or even exploitative to some BIPOC members of the Cornell community. Additionally, recent acts of violence against Black people by law enforcement may contribute to feelings of distrust or powerlessness. We know this history and validate the potential concerns it may raise. At the same time, we know that long-standing social inequalities and health disparities have resulted in COVID-19 disproportionately affecting BIPOC individuals. Higher percentages of individuals from these communities become infected with COVID, and the health outcomes related to infection are often more serious. Away from campus community, BIPOC individuals are not as likely to have access to preventive services or quality health care. The systems, services, and policies being implemented at Cornell seek to address these inequalities as well as the differential impacts. 

The importance of this moment

The aforementioned inequities and injustices may lead some individuals to have reservations about testing and immunization, yet it is also important to acknowledge the critical role these measures play in protecting community health and well-being. In fact, they are likely to be especially helpful for BIPOC communities. For example, annual influenza vaccination is recommended for every individual 6 months or older who does not have medical contraindications, as it is the best way to help protect against flu. The vaccine has been shown to reduce the risk of flu illnesses, hospitalizations, and flu-related deaths. Those who get the vaccine not only protect themselves, but also the people around them who may be more vulnerable to serious flu illness, including infants, older adults, and those with underlying health conditions. They are designed to help students stay safe, and they are part of the quality health care students can access while on campus. We strongly recommend that students comply with these requirements. At the same time, we understand that someone may know the science and still feel distrusting of health care and may have addition questions.

Support along the way

While Cornell Health is not directly conducting the vaccine administration or the COVID-19 arrival testing and surveillance testing at Cornell, our staff members work closely with the groups and departments who are. We can be a resource if you need more information, an exemption, or have related questions, concerns. Please contact cornellhealth@cornell.edu.