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2020 Flu Vaccine: Questions and Answers

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From September 1 – 7, if you are an HSE staff member or student, you can get a free flu shot on campus. Who is required to get a flu vaccine? Will there be repercussions for those who do not get vaccinated? Together with HSE’s Legal Support Office, the HSE News Service provides answers to your most pressing questions.

Why should I get a flu shot this fall for the 2020/2021 academic year?

On August 27, 2020 Rospotrebnadzor (the Federal Service for Surveillance on Consumer Rights Protection and Human Wellbeing) announced the start of this year’s flu vaccination campaign. Experts warn that it is especially critical to get a flu shot this year as seasonal influenza will be circulating amongst the population in addition to the novel coronavirus COVID-19. Therefore, preventive immunization is necessary. Reducing the incidence of flu will allow more efficient use of available medical resources to combat the new coronavirus infection without diverting them to the treatment of other seasonal illnesses. The relevant information is indicated on the Rospotrebnadzor website.

Who is required to get a flu shot?

All employees of educational institutions (including HSE) are required by law to get a flu shot. This is due to the fact that ‘work in organizations carrying out educational activities’ (and not only pedagogical work, but also all other kinds) are included in the list of types of work approved by Decree of the Government of the Russian Federation No. 825 dated 15.07.1999, that are associated with a high risk of becoming infected with infectious diseases and require compulsory preventive vaccinations.

Thus, all HSE staff (not just teaching staff), must get vaccinated. If employees do not comply with the vaccination requirement, the employer faces administrative liability under Article 6.3 of the Code of the Russian Federation on Administrative Offenses (a fine or even an administrative suspension of activities for up to 90 days).

Though students are not required to get the vaccine, they are highly encouraged to do so.

A vaccination is a preventative medical procedure that is performed with a person’s consent. Can I refuse to get vaccinated?

Indeed, getting vaccinated is voluntary, and everyone has the right to refuse to do so (clause 1 of Article 5 of the Federal Law of 17.09.1998 No. 157-FZ ‘On Immunization of Infectious Diseases’).

However, if a person who has refused vaccination works in an educational, medical, or other organization whose activities are associated with a high risk of contracting infectious diseases, then the employer is obliged to suspend that employee from work without pay (paragraph 2 of Article 5 of the Federal Law of 17.09.1998 No. 157-FZ ‘On Immunization of Infectious Diseases’, article 76 of the Labor Code of the Russian Federation).

HSE University understands that suspension from work without payment of wages is a harsh measure. Therefore, the University will provide the option of making alternative arrangements for employees who are not vaccinated—namely, working remotely.

Where and how can I get vaccinated?

You must get your flu shot by October 30, 2020, which is the end of the vaccination campaign period established by the Moscow Department of Health.

The university will organize a centralized vaccination campaign by setting up vaccine clinics at various locations on campus. The first vaccination period will conclude before September 10, 2020. Additional information will be available on the HSE website about the timing of the second period, which will take place approximately in October.

Who can get vaccinated for free?

HSE faculty and staff, their family members, as well as HSE students are entitled to a free vaccine.

Can I get vaccinated elsewhere instead of at HSE?

Yes, of course. After getting a flu shot, the employee must submit to HSE University a supporting document—a vaccination certificate with the stamp of the medical institution and the seal of the doctor.

I am unable to get vaccinated for medical reasons. What should I do?

Report this to the head of your HSE department and submit supporting documents (a medical exemption form). The medical exemption must indicate the period during which vaccination is not recommended by your doctor. If the medical exemption is recommended indefinitely, you have two options:

First: if your department manager believes that you can work remotely without causing detriment to the quality of your work, then you can be transferred to remote work until further notice.

Second: if the transfer to remote work is impossible due to the nature of your work, you may continue to perform your work duties onsite.

If the medical exemption is for a short period of time and expires before October 30, 2020, then it does not create any problems. You can get a flu shot until October 30, 2020. If your medical exemption prevents you from getting vaccinated in time, it is still necessary for you to get vaccinated once your exemption period ends, and until that time (after October 30, 2020) you may either be transferred to remote work, or you will be suspended. Your department manager can arrange other alternatives as well (such as granting you leave during the period of your exemption).

I do not want to get vaccinated for personal reasons. What should I do?

Contact your supervisor and submit a written statement indicating the reasons for declining to get vaccinated. Until the end of the flu epidemic period, which is established by Rospotrebnazor, or until you are vaccinated, the following options are possible. First, you may be transferred, upon the approval of your manager, to remote work, if working from home does not hinder your ability to perform your work duties. Secondly, if working from home is deemed impossible or ineffective due to the nature of your work, you may be suspended from work without pay.

Can external visitors who are not vaccinated visit the university during the academic year 2020/21?

Yes, they can, but given they follow the requirements for visiting the HSE buildings and decreasing the risk of virus infection (using face masks and hand sanitizer, maintaining social distance, avoiding any visits if they have any symptoms of virus infection). Getting vaccinated is voluntary, and everyone has the right to refuse to do so (clause 1 of Article 5 of the Federal Law of 17.09.1998 No. 157-FZ ‘On Immunization of Infectious Diseases’).

No one will ask university visitors for verification that they have received a flu shot.

Due to the pandemic, the university aims to vaccinate its staff, in order to provide them with maximum protection from the flu and other respiratory diseases, which are currently still considered as COVID-19 until the test results return.

Do HSE students and staff have to show a kind of vaccination certificate when they enter the university?

No. Verification that certain students and staff members have gotten a flu shot will be received by the Office of Staff and Student Benefits either from the Clinic No.109, which operates at HSE University, or from the staff members themselves (scanned copies of vaccination certificates) who get vaccinated at other clinics in Moscow and the Moscow Region.

I am a research fellow, over 65, and I’m going to start teaching in the second and the fourth module (from November). Can I avoid getting the flu shot, but attend the university before then?

Yes, until October 30, 2020, you can attend the university, unless you have been transferred to remote work. You have to get vaccinated before the end of the vaccination campaign period established by the Moscow City Department of Health, namely October 30, 2020. After this date the staff members who are not vaccinated (except for those having a continuous medical exemption from vaccination) won’t be allowed in the university buildings, until the end of the flu epidemic period.

August 31, 2020