UC, Cal State systems plan to require COVID-19 vaccination for all students this fall once shots are FDA-approved

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The University of California and California State University systems said that they plan to require all students, staff and faculty on campus this fall to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19, provided the shots are granted formal approval by the Food and Drug Administration.

It represents the broadest higher education vaccination plan in the nation, covering more than 1 million students and staff members across the two systems’ 33 campuses, CSU Chancellor Joseph I. Castro said in a news release.

“The state of California has been a leader in the administration of COVID-19 vaccines, and Californians receiving a vaccine has led to significantly reducing the transmission of COVID-19 in our state,” he said in the statement. “Continued vigilance will further mitigate the spread of the disease that has radically altered our lives over the past year.”

Dozens of other colleges nationwide are requiring vaccination this fall, including Claremont McKenna and Harvey Mudd in Claremont, Notre Dame in Indiana, Duke University in North Carolina and Johns Hopkins University in Maryland, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

Stanford University also announced a mandate Thursday requiring all of its 19,000 students to be vaccinated when classes start in the fall.

The UC and CSU said they wanted to make people aware of their plans now so that they’ll have ample time to secure a vaccine. Both systems are planning for a return to in-person learning this fall, although different campuses may vary.

“Receiving a vaccine for the virus that causes COVID-19 is a key step people can take to protect themselves, their friends and family, and our campus communities while helping bring the pandemic to an end,” said UC President Michael V. Drake, who’s also a medical doctor.

If no vaccine has received full FDA approval by fall, the policy will go into effect as soon as one does. The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are currently being distributed under the FDA’s emergency authorization, but health experts expect formal approval of at least one by the fall.

The draft policy would apply to any students, staff members or academic appointees using campus facilities.

At the UC, all students will need to update their immunization records to show COVID-19 vaccination or otherwise provide proof of medical exemption before showing up on campus this fall. Student health centers may be able to help connect students with a vaccine provider if they are unable to find one, officials said.

The steps by which UC staff and faculty will provide vaccination information has yet to be finalized.

The CSU system said it plans to consult with the California State Student Association, CSU Academic Senate and labor unions before making any changes to immunization requirements, and students or workers could seek an exemption based on medical or religious grounds.

Physical distancing, mask-wearing and other safety measures are expected to remain in place even as students return to campus vaccinated, the UC said.

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