[WATCH] Largest US Colleges Pushing Student Vaccine Mandates With Prizes

As a new semester begins amid a resurgence of the coronavirus, 26 of the 50 largest public university campuses in the U.S. are not mandating that students be vaccinated. Instead, approaches to enforcement vary widely even among universities that do have vaccine mandates, with some offering leniency for students who opt-out and others expelling those who do not comply.

Administrators are emphasizing high numbers for student vaccinations as key to bringing some normalcy back to campus and keeping instruction in classrooms rather than online. Where mandates face political opposition, schools are relying on incentives and outreach to get more students vaccinated.

J&J vaccine to receive authorization
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Universities without vaccine mandates include many of the country’s very largest and account for roughly 55% of students enrolled at the 50 biggest overall, according to an Associated Press analysis, which looked at the largest campuses by 2019-2020 enrollment that offer on-campus housing and award Bachelor’s degrees. Those with vaccine mandates are concentrated in the Northeast and California. Almost all of those without mandates are in states that have restricted the ability to implement COVID-19 vaccine requirements, including Florida, Texas, and Arizona.

The AP presented three different examples of how some colleges are handling COVID on Campus:

–At the University of Connecticut, students are required to be vaccinated, but the school has been lenient with those opposed to getting the shots. It has granted over 800 exemptions without denying a single request, no matter the reason. The campus set up clinics for unvaccinated students to get shots as they arrive, and officials are working with students who have not complied with the mandate to understand their concerns about the vaccines.

–At the University of Central Florida in Orlando, the campus is holding a raffle with prizes for vaccinated students, offering the shots at its student health center and rolling out a campaign urging students to get “Vacci-Knighted” — a play on the name of its sports teams, the Knights. But an executive order from Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis prevents the school and other organizations in Florida from mandating vaccines. In the first week of classes, random sampling found 72.6% of those surveyed had at least one vaccine dose, according to a university spokesman. The university says some 12,000 of its 72,000 students live on campus. It’s recommending students wear masks inside. Over the two weeks ending September 11th, the university reported 377 COVID-19 infections among students.

–At the University of Virginia, students who didn’t comply with a school vaccine mandate or apply for a religious or medical exemption have been kicked out. Near the start of the semester, 193 students had been unenrolled for not getting the shots, according to Dr. Christopher Holstege, director of student health and wellness. He said the policy aligns with requirements that students be vaccinated for other diseases such as measles and mumps. The university called and sent emails and text messages to students who had not complied to work with them on getting their shots or an exemption, said Susan Davis, vice president for student affairs. She said all of those who were unenrolled will be welcomed back in January or later if they follow the mandate. About 97% of the school’s 25,000 students and 92% of staff are vaccinated, officials said. Anyone on campus who is not vaccinated must wear a mask around others — indoors and outdoors — and undergo weekly COVID-19 testing. So far this semester, the school has reported 255 COVID-19 cases among students.


Watch the AP’s report, below.

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