More and more universities are making vaccines mandatory for students

The list of colleges and universities planning to have students fully vaccinated against Covid-19 is growing.

Cornell University, Rutgers University, Nova Southeastern University, Fort Lewis College in Durango, Colorado, and St. Edward’s University in Austin, Texas have already announced that students will be required to have vaccinations before they go up in the fall return to campus.

“Medical and religious exceptions are taken into account, but our locations and classrooms are expected to be predominantly vaccinated, which greatly reduces the risk of infection for everyone,” Cornell President Martha Pollack and Provost Michael Kotlikoff said in a statement.

More institutions are expected to follow, said Lynn Pasquerella, president of the Association of American Colleges and Universities.

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Across the country, campuses struggled to stay open last year as fraternities, sororities, and off-campus parties suddenly spiked coronavirus cases among students.

As eligibility for Covid vaccines expands to include people 16 and older, schools need to consider how a vaccine mandate can help keep higher education back on track, Pasquerella said.

And for those enrolled in school, there are already many vaccination requirements in place to help prevent the spread of diseases like polio, diphtheria, tetanus, and whooping cough.

“Adding Covid-19 vaccination to our student vaccination requirements will help provide our students with a safer, more robust college experience,” said Jonathan Holloway, President of Rutgers.

Students can also request a vaccination waiver for medical or religious reasons, and students participating in completely remote programs do not need to be vaccinated.

Rutgers has even received New Jersey state approval to deliver vaccines to faculties, staff, and students on campus when supplies become available.

All 50 states have at least some immunization mandates for children who attend public schools and even children who attend private schools and daycare. In any case, there are medical exceptions and some also religious or philosophical exceptions.

Still, the hesitation of the vaccine remains a powerful force, especially among parents.

According to a poll by ParentsTogether, a national advocacy group, in March, only 58% of parents or caregivers said they would vaccinate their children against Covid, although 70% of parents said they would vaccinate themselves.

According to ParentsTogether, low-income households and minority groups were even less likely to vaccinate their children.

Other studies have shown that blacks and Latinos are more skeptical about vaccines than the entire US population because of historical medical abuse. Racial differences in vaccine distribution have also been observed in the US

“Colleges need to be one step ahead and think about how this will play out,” said Bethany Robertson, co-founder and co-director of ParentsTogether.

“We need to start the conversation with parents now to build trust and understanding of how vaccinating children against Covid-19 will protect their health, the health of their families and the health of our communities,” said Robertson.

However, in addition to students, parents, and community members, schools must also weigh the interests of faculty, staff, lawmakers, and trustees, Pasquerella said.

“It’s complicated,” she said. “No matter what decision you make, one group will ultimately be dissatisfied.”

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