Connecticut – At most of the largest US public universities, students are not obligated to be vaccinated against COVID-19. Some schools require vaccines, but with a leniency for those who drop out. Still others have expelled students who did not comply.
As a new semester begins amid the resurgence of the coronavirus, administrators and faculty nationwide see high vaccination rates as the key to getting back to some normalcy. Where the mandate faces political opposition, schools are relying on encouragement and outreach to vaccinate more students.
An analysis by The Associated Press shows that 26 of the country’s 50 largest public university campuses do not require vaccinations, representing about 55% of students enrolled in those schools. AP saw the largest number of campuses by 2019-2020 enrollments that offer on-campus housing and award bachelor’s degrees.
Universities with vaccine mandates are concentrated in the Northeast and California. Nearly all are in states without mandates that have restricted their ability to enforce COVID-19 vaccine requirements, including Florida, Texas and Arizona.
Yukon sophistication assists students visiting Shippy Hall at Sahitya Bhairavajala Stores, Con Campus, Friday, August 27, 2021. (AP Photo/Pat Eaton-Robb)
Here’s a look at the approaches three public universities are taking to get students vaccinated:
University of Connecticut
Students are required to be vaccinated, but the school has been generous with those who oppose getting the shot. It has given over 800 discounts without denying a single request, whatever the reason.
Officials are working with students who have not followed the mandate to understand their concerns about vaccines, said the university’s interim president, Dr. Andrew Agwunobi, a pediatrician.
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“We will be very sensitive to the fact that there is misinformation out there, that we may need to educate the student,” he said. “So it’s about trying to work with that student about what their concerns are, trying to get them in the right place in terms of vaccination.”
Campus set up clinics to take shots when unvaccinated students arrived. Among those who signed up was graduate student Cindy Barreto, who said it was difficult to get back home in Brazil, where her brother was hospitalized in intensive care with the virus.
“I know people who are waiting to get a vaccine, and I would say don’t do it,” she said.
At the School of Stores where 25% of classes were online last year, students are looking forward to a better experience this fall. About 90% of classes were expected to be in-person this semester at the university, where about 11,000 of the 19,000 undergraduates live on campus. All students must wear masks indoors, and those who have not been vaccinated face weekly testing.
“I was in my friend’s residence hall, and I was just talking to a bunch of people, and I was like, ‘I haven’t done this in a while, especially with people my age,’” said Sahitya Bhairavawala. said. from Avon, Connecticut, who spent her freshman year taking online classes at home. “So, yeah, it definitely feels surreal, overwhelming too. But I’m also very excited to get to know people.”
Ten COVID-19 infections have been recorded among students since the start of the semester, according to UConn, where officials say 97% of students are vaccinated.
University of Central Florida
The Orlando campus is holding a raffle with prizes for vaccinated students, offering shots at its student health center and launching a campaign urging students to get “vaccinated” – A play named after its sports teams, the Knights.
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But an executive order from Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis bars schools and other organizations in Florida from providing vaccines.
Joseph Harrington, professor of physics and president of the UCF Faculty Senate, said many professors are scared because they do not know who has been vaccinated. He is part of a group of state teachers who are petitioning the governor to allow schools to set their own policies.
“There are some large classrooms where students are sitting in aisles because they are afraid to sit next to other students,” Harrington said. “They want to socially distance themselves, but they can’t, because we are not allowed to reduce capacity due to COVID. We need to teach in fully condensed classes.”
University spokesman Chad Binet said that in the first week of classes, the random sample found that 72.6% of those surveyed had had at least one vaccine dose. He said the school is using incentives to try to increase that number even more, including a raffle where vaccinated students receive textbooks, computers and a chance to win $5,000 worth of tuition and fee waivers.
The university says that about 12,000 of its 72,000 students live on campus. It is advising students to wear masks inside.
In the two weeks ending September 11, the university reported 377 COVID-19 infections among students.
University of Virginia
Students who do not comply with school vaccine mandates or apply for religious or medical exemptions are excluded.
According to Dr. Christopher Holstage, Director of Student Health and Wellness, near the start of the semester, 193 students were rejected for not getting shots. He said the policy is in line with the requirements that students should be vaccinated for other diseases such as measles and mumps.
Susan Davis, vice president of student affairs, said the university sent and sent emails and text messages to students who didn’t comply with their shots or work with them to get discounts. He said those who have not been enrolled will be welcomed in January or later if they comply with the mandate.
Officials said that about 97% of the school’s 25,000 students and 92% of the staff have been vaccinated. Anyone on campus who has not been vaccinated should wear a mask indoors and around others outside and undergo a weekly COVID-19 test.
So far this semester, the school has registered 255 COVID-19 cases among students.
It is offering more than 90% of the classes as compared to last semester, when almost half were online.
Mallory Griffin, a senior, said most students have no problem with the vaccine mandate.
“I think the general consensus, at least among everyone I’ve talked to and all my friends, is that we’re glad everyone has been vaccinated or is being vaccinated, because it’s us. Brings us one step closer to the expectation of full normalcy,” Griffin said.
DiPiero reported from San Diego. Associated Press writer Skip Foreman contributed from Winston-Salem, North Carolina.