Hundreds of colleges say Covid vaccines will be mandatory for fall 2021

With the latest announcements from the State University of New York and the City University of New York, hundreds of thousands of students must now receive the Covid-19 vaccine.

On Monday, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said the SUNY and CUNY panels will require proof of vaccination for all students taking personal courses this fall, and he encouraged all private universities and colleges to adopt the same guidelines. Ithaca College and Cornell University have already announced that vaccinations will be mandatory.

“The state’s new vaccination requirement – subject to full FDA approval – will be another step in restoring normal campus activity this fall,” SUNY Chancellor Jim Malatras said in a statement.

Across the country, more and more other colleges and universities have announced that vaccinations will be mandatory for the fall of 2021, including California State University and the University of California, which affect more than 1 million students, faculties, and staff.

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They join a number of other schools that have made similar announcements including Yale University, Georgetown University, Stanford University, Wesleyan University, Grinnell College, Bowdoin College, George Washington University, American University, the Emory University and Duke University; Brown University; Northeastern University, Notre Dame University; Syracuse University, Rutgers University, Morehouse College, Spelman College, DePaul University, Vassar College, and Fairleigh Dickinson University.

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

Across the country, campuses struggled to stay open last year as fraternities, sororities, and off-campus parties suddenly spiked coronavirus cases among students. Meanwhile, students overwhelmingly found distance learning to be a poor substitute for teaching.

With Covid vaccines becoming more eligible and accessible, schools need to consider how a vaccine mandate can help get higher education back on track, Pasquerella said.

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

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 each case there are medical exceptions and, in some cases, religious or philosophical exceptions.

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

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

Still, hesitation about 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, even though 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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