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Nation’s Largest University System to Mandate COVID-19 Vaccinations

Two of the nation’s largest university systems say they intend to require COVID-19 vaccinations for all students, faculty and staff on campuses this fall.

Several U.S. colleges and universities also have said they plan to make the vaccination mandatory. But Thursday’s joint announcement from the 10-campus University of California and the 23-campus California State University is the largest of its kind in the nation.

CSU’s four-year college system is the nation’s biggest, with about 485,000 students and tens of thousands of staff, while the UC system has more than 280,000 students.

“Together, the CSU and UC enroll and employ more than one million students and employees across 33 major university campuses, so this is the most comprehensive and consequential university plan for COVID-19 vaccines in the country,” CSU chancellor Joseph I. Castro said in the statement.

Stanford University also announced a mandate on Thursday for all of its 19,000 students to be vaccinated when classes start in the fall. Students at the private school who have an approved vaccination exemption for medical or religious reasons will be required to undergo regular COVID-19 testing.

The two public university systems will allow for similar exemptions.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has allowed emergency use of the Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines, with formal approval of at least one of the shots expected by the fall.

CSU spokeswoman Toni Molle said the timing of a formal mandate will depend on when the FDA gives full authorization to one or more of the vaccines and also on discussions with labor unions. It could come before or after classes start.

“We are announcing now so that students and employees have time to receive a vaccination” by the fall, when the proposed policy would take effect, she said.

The two systems have said they expect the majority of instruction and activities in fall 2021 to be in person.

“The planned COVID-19 vaccine requirement will further enable the campuses to be repopulated,” the statement said.

The University of California said in a separate statement that it will require students planning to be on its campuses in the fall to update their immunization documentation to show they received a COVID-19 vaccination or have a medical exemption.

Students or staff who fail to comply with the mandate “will be barred from in-person access” to campus programs and facilities, including campus housing, the system said.

Universities including Rutgers, Brown, Cornell and Northeastern recently told students they must get vaccinated before returning to campus next fall.

But some colleges are leaving the decision to students. At Virginia Tech, officials determined that they can’t mandate the vaccines because the FDA has only allowed their emergency use.

Many schools have launched vaccination blitzes to get students immunized before they leave for the summer.

Northeastern and other colleges requiring shots believe they’re on solid legal ground. It’s not unusual for colleges to require students to be vaccinated for other diseases, and a California court last year upheld a flu shot requirement at the UC system.

Story cited here.

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