Stanford, BC among top universities to mandate vaccines

California colleges start to make bold decisions on reopening in the fall; several other institutions also say they will require them, including the University of Pennsylvania and University of Massachusetts.
By: | April 23, 2021
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Stanford University has joined higher education and medical research heavyweights Duke, Johns Hopkins and Emory universities in announcing mandatory vaccinations for students who will attend in the fall.

On the same day that the University of California and California State University systems also said they would require COVID-19 vaccines (pending full FDA approval by the Food and Drug Administration), Stanford added significant weight to the growing list of high-profile private universities that are behind mandates.

Among them are Boston College, Columbia, Cornell, Brown, Yale, Princeton, Dartmouth, Georgetown, George Washington and New York University. Many have leaned on public health guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and medical experts in making decisions, even though vaccines currently are only approved for emergency use authorization.

“Public health officials at the county, state and national level encourage all of us to be vaccinated,” Provost Persis Drell said in a letter to the Stanford community. “As CDC Director Rochelle Walensky has stated, ‘We continue to encourage every American to get vaccinated as soon as it’s their turn, so we can begin to safely take steps back to our everyday lives. Vaccines can help us return to the things we love about life, so we encourage every American to get vaccinated as soon as they have the opportunity.’ ”

More than 60 private universities across the nation have signed on for vaccine mandates, including six others from the state of California – Harvey Mudd College, Pomona College, Pitzer College, Samuel Merritt University, Claremont McKenna University and the University of San Diego. The University of Massachusetts, Hampshire College, the University of Pennsylvania, Smith College and Montclair State all announced last week they would require them as well.

The return to campus

A return to a more traditional campus in the fall has been the hope of most higher ed leaders, and many see vaccines as a potential safeguard to make it happen.

While Moderna and Pfizer have continued to roll out, the Johnson & Johnson vaccine was put on pause over blood clot concerns. According to federal officials, that vaccine may be reintroduced as early as this weekend. Last week in California, the state opened up vaccines to ages 16 and over, so opportunities are growing, and students have been booking appointments.


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Higher education institutions across the country are working to get students vaccinated as quickly as possible before the spring semester ends, some setting up their own clinics on campus. At Stanford, the last official day of classes is June 4, so there is a bit of an extra window for many students to receive theirs through Stanford Health before they break for the summer. Regardless, when they return, they must have proof that they have gotten them or have a medical or religious exemption.

“All students will be asked about their vaccine status prior to their arrival on campus for the fall quarter,” Drell told students, faculty and staff. “We will work to help arriving students obtain a vaccination if they have been unable to obtain one at their home location … We will provide more details in the coming weeks. Stanford is also continuing to evaluate the vaccination situation for faculty and staff, and we expect to provide an update soon.”

Like most institutions, even if the majority of its population is vaccinated, Stanford does not expect a fully wide-open campus in the fall.

“We expect that other public health safeguards will also continue to be in place,” Drell said. “We expect that mask-wearing, particularly indoors where others are present, will still be a part of campus life. The virus is still very much with us today, and highly transmissible variants pose an additional danger.”