Rutgers University to require Covid-19 vaccine for students attending in the fall

It is one of the first US universities to receive such a mandate as schools begin to prepare for a return to campus life after a year of distance or hybrid learning as a result of the pandemic.

“In support of Rutgers’s commitment to health and safety for all members of its community, the university will update its student immunization requirements to include the COVID-19 vaccine,” Rutgers’ leadership wrote Thursday in a message to the university. community. .

“This health policy update means that, with few exceptions, all students planning to participate in the 2021 fall semester must be fully vaccinated.”

Students can apply for an exemption for medical or religious reasons, the university said. Otherwise, proof of vaccination is required for all students attending in-person classes.

Hoping for a ‘sense of normalcy on campus’

Arielle Dublin, vice president of the Rutgers University Student Assembly, said she supports the school’s decision.

Dublin, a fourth-year student, was a member of the university’s “restart committee”, made up of faculty, administrators and students, which made suggestions to Antonio Calcado, executive vice president and chief operating officer at Rutgers.

“I think the ultimate goal is to keep students coming back and have a sense of normalcy on campus,” Dublin told CNN. “And to really have that sense of normalcy on campus, you have to recognize that we have to take care of our bodies and make sure everyone around us is okay too.”

Is the vaccine required by law?

Universities, like certain employers, may require vaccinations, and the Covid-19 vaccine is really no exception, said Renee Mattei Myers, a Pennsylvania attorney.

“They can make it mandatory, but they have to have procedures for exceptions,” Myers said, for example for medical and religious reasons.

Some experts say it remains a gray area – the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has issued an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) for all three vaccines now used in the United States. But that does not mean formal approval.

“From what we currently know about the vaccines, it is a very favorable proposition to be vaccinated,” said Dr. Howard Forman, the director and founder of the Yale School of Medicine’s MD / MBA program. “But, in accordance with the principles of biomedical ethics, you really want to be able to protect the individual choice in the matter as much as possible.”

In its guidelines on products requiring emergency authorization, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration says recipients should be advised that they “have the option to accept or decline the EUA product and of the potential consequences of refusing administration of the product. “
The question of whether vaccines with an EUA can be made mandatory “has never been tested in court, and there are very strong legal arguments against this view” that they are experimental and should not be made mandatory, said Dorit Rubinstein Reiss, a professor in the US. law at the University of California, wrote last month.

“At the moment, although there is still legal uncertainty, I believe that the balance of factors supports the ability of employers (or states) to demand EUA vaccines,” Reiss wrote. “Courts differ, but my current assessment is that most courts are inclined to maintain an employer mandate for an EUA COVID-19 vaccine.”

Survey: Many students agree that colleges have the right to demand a vaccine

Students are overwhelmingly of the opinion that universities and colleges have the right to require vaccination, according to a poll by College Pulse, a research firm focusing on colleges and universities, published in January. In a survey of 1,000 students, 71% said that “colleges have the right to require students to be vaccinated before returning to campus.”

Hayley Slusser, editor of Rutgers’ student-run newspaper The Daily Targum, called the university’s decision “ the right choice. ”

Although she hasn’t been vaccinated yet, she said she will if it’s available to her.

“Safety is very important,” Slusser, who will be turning senior this fall, told CNN. “As someone who commutes to school and lives with a high-risk person, I would feel more comfortable knowing that everyone on campus is vaccinated and that we wouldn’t be helping anyone ever get sick again on campus. the campus (with Covid-19). “

Nicholas F. LaBelle, president of the Rutgers University Student Assembly, also described the university’s mandate as “the right move.”

“We look forward to working with the university administration not only to achieve this goal, but also to ensure that vaccine distribution is fair and efficient, and set an example for similar institutions,” LaBelle said in a statement.

“Through shared vigilance and unity, Rutgers will return as the beloved community we have cultivated in these tumultuous times and face a brighter future.”