Rutgers University is requiring students to return to campus this fall to prove they have been vaccinated against Covid-19. This makes it one of the first institutions in the USA to commission the vaccinations.
Rutgers President Jonathan Holloway announced the change on Thursday, saying in a statement that the university plans to update its vaccination requirements for students on campus to include the Covid-19 vaccine.
Students must provide evidence that they have been fully vaccinated with any of the three shots currently approved in the US – Pfizer’s, Moderna’s, or Johnson & Johnson’s. However, students under the age of 18 are only eligible for the Pfizer shot. Pfizer’s is the only FDA-cleared vaccine for use in people aged 16 and over.
Students who are fully enrolled in online courses and who do not have access to on-campus facilities are said to be exempt from vaccination, as are those with medical or religious reasons that prohibit vaccination.
Many universities in the United States struggled to bring students back to their campuses during the pandemic, following various reopening plans. Some institutions have been forced to crack down on gatherings and off-campus events that have sparked outbreaks in the surrounding community.
“From the beginning of the pandemic, the safety of the wider Rutgers community was our shared responsibility. This has never been more true,” Holloway said in the statement. “The importance of having an effective vaccination program to keep our community safer for all cannot be overstated.”
Focuses on information
Dr. Preeti Malani, chief health officer and professor of medicine and infectious diseases at the University of Michigan, told CNBC that Rutgers was one of the first universities she knew will require Covid-19 vaccinations this fall.
Malani has worked closely with health officials from other Big 10 universities, including Rutgers, to steer the campus reopening amid the pandemic. At the moment, the University of Michigan has no plans to require admissions among returning students this fall, she said.
“We really focus on giving students good information and helping them sign up. We have no way of vaccinating people on campus, and that’s because there are lots of other people out there who are getting vaccinated properly have to now, “Malani told CNBC in a telephone interview.
“We are confident that as supply outgrows demand, we may be able to host some types of student-focused vaccination events,” she said.
Universities need other vaccines for students living on campus, such as meningitis, hepatitis, and measles, which experts say could likely extend to Covid-19. However, it could be difficult to keep track of who was vaccinated on campus, Malani said, especially at facilities with many overseas and international students.
“The [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] can provide guidance and say, for example, “You shouldn’t live in a dorm if you are not vaccinated”. I think there are a lot of people’s opinions on it at the moment, “said Malani.
“What we do know is that the news about vaccination is getting better and better and that this is not just a way to protect individuals but a way to protect the entire community,” she said.
Back to normal
Requiring students to get vaccinated against the disease will allow Rutgers to resume a wide range of activities and allow for an “accelerated return to normalcy before the pandemic,” the university said in its statement Thursday. The widespread vaccination enables the university to offer more face-to-face teaching as well as expanded dining and recreational opportunities.
The decision was based in part on President Joe Biden’s assessment that every American will have access to a vaccine by the end of May.
A number of states have announced that they will open vaccine licenses to all adults in the coming weeks before Biden meets the May 1 deadline for the state extension to all adult residents.
New Jersey officials have agreed to the New Brunswick-based university to begin administering vaccines to students and faculty as more doses become available. However, the university urges “all members of its community currently eligible to receive a vaccine not to wait” and to be vaccinated “as soon as possible” because the state has not yet provided supplies to the university.