COVID-19 vaccines come to campus
Colleges bank on vaccines for a normal fall
At the University of Arizona’s Tucson campus, drivers follow traffic cones in paths across a lawn, stopping under white pavilions and rolling up their sleeves for doses of the COVID-19 vaccine. In late March, a new group was allowed to join the line of cars: the school’s own students.
Many schools are hosting COVID-19 vaccine clinics in stadiums and parking lots, though their young, healthy students typically fall toward the back of priority lines. But increasing availability has given school administrators enough confidence to plan for fall with an immunized student body and fewer safety restrictions. A few schools will require shots for fall 2021’s on-campus students, but most are opting to let students make their own decision.
Some schools are trying to get their students vaccinated before summer break. The University of Florida on Monday launched a clinic in its stadium that is opened to any eligible adult, but is particularly aimed at the student body. Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine visited one in an Ohio State University arena after pushing for the state’s college students to get vaccinated before May to avoid spreading COVID-19 when they leave for summer break.
Last summer, schools urged students to get the flu shot and adopted a wait-and-see policy for COVID-19 vaccines. Now, a few are requiring immunization for this fall’s on-campus students. New Jersey’s Rutgers University announced its requirement March 25, followed by Cornell University and Rhode Island’s Roger Williams University. Nova Southeastern University in Florida rolled out a requirement for both students and faculty. All offer medical and religious exemptions.
But most schools are wary of mandates. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has only granted COVID-19 vaccines emergency authorization. It’s not clear whether schools can legally require students and employees to get a shot until it has full approval.
Of U.S. adults ages 18-29, 60 percent plan to get a COVID-19 shot or already have. To entice the rest, schools are relying on the promise of an improved fall semester. Vaccinated students at some schools can skip weekly COVID-19 tests. North Dakota’s Dickinson State University is giving out buttons and bracelets to mark vaccinated students exempt from the school mask mandate and plans to drop the rule altogether come fall.
More shots mean less likelihood of COVID-19 case spikes forcing classes online. That, in addition to keeping other students safe, may be enough motivation for some students. In late March, Wisconsin college freshman Ava Taylor told WISN-TV, “I just got my first dose on Tuesday. It’s just a way to reinforce safety.”’
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