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Regional Colleges Adopt Vaccine Mandates For Fall Semester

The COVID-19 vaccine moves from cold storage at the Department of Health to coolers and is transported to the TU Center for mass vaccination clinics.
Jackie Orchard
Vials of COVID-19 vaccine

Colleges across the country are determining their fall semester COVID-19 policies for students, faculty and staff. The University of Vermont Board of Trustees endorsed a policy that will require students be vaccinated by the time they arrive on campus for the fall semester.
The Chronicle of Higher Education reports that so far 589 college campuses will require students and/or employees to be vaccinated before they return to campus this fall.  The University of Vermontwill be one of them. Vice President for Operations and Public Safety Gary Derr said in early June they told students that they would need to be fully vaccinated once the FDA granted full approval to one of the vaccines and anticipated that would occur in late June or early July. But Derr says it now appears that won’t happen until late this year or early next year.  “As we looked at the situation over the last six weeks since we made that announcement we decided that for a safe  and healthy return to fall that we need to move it to requirement regardless of the FDA approval.”

Exemptions are available for medical or religious reasons. Derrr says those claiming to be vaccinated must provide proof.  “They have a online health account that they will log into and then they have to provide an image, a jpeg a pdf whatever, of their vaccine card that then our health services reviews and make sure it’s compliant and if there are any problems with it they let them know. But otherwise that’s our way of tracking it.”

Clarkson University Vice President for External Relations Kelly Chezum says the private school in northern New York state is requiring all students and employees to submit documentation of vaccination or request exemptions for religious or medical reasons.  “Right now we are reaching out to students who have not submitted any of the documentation yet. We have about 95 percent of our documentation in on all employees and students are closely following that. We are not requiring that documentation until after the August 1st date. We don’t start classes here until the end of August so we have some time. So what we are doing now is just communicating individually with students who have not already submitted their information.  We announced this policy in May. After careful conversations and guidance with St. Lawrence County Public Health, our local provider that runs our health center, the St. Lawrence Health System and in watching what was going on with New York state across the board in its access to vaccinations.”

Chezum adds that vaccination documentation is not an unusual requirement for incoming students.  “We certainly have been getting a lot of questions about the policy. Our university like others has had other vaccine requirements in the past. So going through the steps of asking for a medical or religious exemption is not unusual in our processes here at the university. I would say too Clarkson as a STEM-based institution has a lot of students who appreciate the science behind the vaccines and the technology that’s being used to track COVID-19. So from that standpoint I think we’re doing very well in the response from our student body.”