UH institutes COVID vaccine mandate for all students who will be on campus this fall

Updated: May. 17, 2021 at 4:18 PM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - The University of Hawaii will require all students who want to attend class or participate in activities on campus in the fall to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

It’s the first major vaccine requirement policy announced in Hawaii ― and comes amid growing debate about whether K-12 schools, employers and other entities should also require vaccines.

In making the announcement, UH joins a growing list of colleges and universities around the country that have already announced plans to make the vaccine mandatory for student in-person attendance.

The UH decision impacts more than 49,000 students across the state.

Officials announced Monday that vaccine requirement will take effect once the Pfizer, Moderna or Johnson & Johnson vaccines receive full authorization by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration — not just the emergency use authorization. That’s expected to happen this summer.

“We want to do everything we can to make our campuses as safe as possible for all of our students and all of our employees,” said UH President David Lassner, at a news conference Monday.

[READ MORE: UH-Manoa offers vaccine clinic as administrators ‘seriously’ consider mandating shot]

The COVID-19 vaccination will be added to the UH student health clearance requirements. Students are already required to get shots for measles, mumps and rubella, tetanus and other diseases.

Students will also be able to request exemptions for health or religious reasons.

UH says nearly 960 students have exemptions for the currently mandated vaccines like measles and it’s trying to determine the rules for those who get COVID-19 vaccination exemptions.

“We are working through for people who have exemptions, what kind of protections will be in place for them,” said Lassner.

At the UH-Manoa campus on Monday, students had mixed opinions about the vaccine requirement.

“I think it’s a good idea and it will help keep students safe on campus,” said Autumn Lobel, 21, a business management student.

But student Danielle Santos questioned the wisdom of making the vaccine a requirement of in-person attendance. “We should make that decision for yourself,” she said, adding she has been vaccinated.

The requirement applies to students who want to be on any of the UH campuses. Unvaccinated students are still allowed to enroll in online courses.

Meanwhile, the university said it would also be holding discussions with unions that represent UH employees about possible vaccination requirements.

In a statement, Chaminade University of Honolulu announced it would not be requiring that students be vaccinated but are “strongly encouraging” it. Classes in the fall will be held fully in-person.

Out of 5,300 colleges and universities across country, 361 are mandating the vaccine for students or faculty which is an increase from more than 60 last month according to the Chronicle of Higher Education. It’s a mix of public and private institutions and most of the mandating schools tend to be in the West Coast, North East and in democratic leaning states.

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