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Top US universities make vaccination mandatory for students

US universities
Vaccination is required at these US universities. Source: David Ryder/Getty Images North America/Getty Images via AFP

Some US universities are requiring students to be vaccinated before they can return to campus while others are adopting a wait-and-see approach, according to reports. The Chronicle of Higher Education is maintaining a database of public and private institutions across the US that will require students and/or its employees to get vaccinated. The platform has identified 412 campuses at the time of writing.

Many US universities, like many other universities abroad, are hoping to return to some form of normalcy at their campuses — depending on how the pandemic pans out — with certain safety measures in place. This includes requiring facial masks and social distancing while on campus, and continuing some classes and activities online.

Speaking to US News and World Report, Dr. Preeti Malani, a professor and chief health officer at the University of Michigan—Ann Arbor, said “If you can ensure a highly vaccinated community, you can get back to a lot of those things safely.” She added that vaccines offer protection beyond an individual level, helping keep entire communities safe. 

Chris Marsicano, an education professor and founding director of the College Crisis Initiative at Davidson College in North Carolina, told the portal that colleges generally fall into four categories: requiring vaccines; offering students incentives to get immunised voluntarily; not requiring the shots; and adopting a wait-and-see approach. The majority of schools are in the last category, according to Marsicano, but this could change once COVID-19 vaccines are granted full FDA approval.

“Once these vaccines receive full FDA approval, colleges and universities should have no legal issue with requiring that vaccine of their students, at least in principle, at the federal level,” he was quoted saying.

US universities that require vaccination

US universities

Students who attend these US universities will have to show proof of vaccination. Source: David Ryder/Getty Images North America/Getty Images via AFP

The Chronicle notes that many colleges’ vaccination policies “resist easy categorisation.” The majority of US universities grant exemptions to their vaccination mandates, even if they’re included in the “all students” category, it said. “In this context, ‘all students’ generally means all students who plan to participate in some on-campus component of campus life. The ‘only residential students’ category applies to students living in on-campus housing. ‘Employees’ generally means all faculty and staff members that will participate in the on-campus experience.”

Many top US universities requiring students to be vaccinated are among those on The Chronicle’s database, including Columbia University, Cornell University, Harvard University, Yale University, University of Pennsylvania, Stanford University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), New York University (NYU), Princeton University and the University of California at Berkeley. 

Students can expect to show proof of their vaccination. Duke University president Vincent E. Price said, “…we plan to require all new and returning Duke students to present proof of vaccination to Student Health before they can enroll for the Fall 2021 semester. This policy will cover all undergraduate, graduate, and professional students — in all degree programmes — who intend to be on the Duke campus for any period of time starting with the Fall 2021 semester. Documented medical and religious exemptions will be accommodated.”

Rutgers University announced in March: “In support of Rutgers’s commitment to health and safety for all members of its community, the university will be updating its Immunisation Requirements for Students to include the COVID-19 vaccine. This health policy update means that, with limited exceptions, all students planning to attend in the Fall 2021 semester must be fully vaccinated. In parallel, we continue to strongly urge all Rutgers faculty and staff to get immunised against COVID-19 at the earliest opportunity.”