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UVM to require COVID vaccinations once fully approved by FDA

Published: Jun. 9, 2021 at 1:02 PM EDT|Updated: Jun. 9, 2021 at 5:27 PM EDT
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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - All University of Vermont students must be fully vaccinated against COVID this fall once the Food and Drug Administration fully approves at least one of the vaccines.

There are a few exceptions but a majority of the campus must be vaccinated. And both the administration and a student I spoke with tell me it’s time for this requirement.

“Most of them really want this in-person, real experience,” UVM Provost Patty Prelock said.

UVM says it is requiring students to be fully vaccinated for in-person learning once at least one of the coronavirus vaccines receives full FDA approval.

Prelock says this has been part of the university’s ongoing strategy to protect the students, faculty and the surrounding community.

“This is a population that is a little slower to get the vaccine than some of our older populations, so we really want to encourage them,” Prelock said.

Kira White is a rising senior at UVM. Outside of school, White is a pharmacy technician working closely with the vaccination process.

“I definitely didn’t want them to require the vaccine prematurely, but I think now we are at a good point where I think it is a really good thing and it is going to be a safer place on campus because of it,” White said.

From an admission standpoint, Prelock says this will attract students who want a healthy school environment.

For those who have a medical or religious reason to not get the vaccine, there will be exceptions. But those students will have to follow strict guidelines.

“They will have to wear a mask indoors, they will have to test frequently,” Prelock said.

More than 400 private and public schools across the country are requiring the vaccine this fall.

The Vermont State Colleges System is waiting for the emergency use authorization to be lifted before making an official announcement.

“Residential colleges and if you are a student in allied health programs, you are already required to get vaccinated, so we do anticipate adding COVID-19 vaccine to that with health and religious exemptions,” said Sophie Zdatny, the chancellor of the Vermont State Colleges System.

Prelock says many students have already informed UVM they are fully vaccinated.

And White says other students she has talked to have already been vaccinated.

“UVM students really care about the community and so anything they can do to protect themselves and the community, I think they will do,” White said.

I also spoke with an expert to learn more about the legality of this mandate.

Jared Carter, an assistant professor of law at the Vermont Law School, says waiting for the FDA approval eliminates any gray area.

Currently, all COVID vaccines have emergency use authorization. That means at this time, getting the vaccine cannot be mandated it must be voluntary.

But once that is lifted it is legal for an entity to require the vaccine.

Carter says for those who refuse to get the vaccine without a medical or religious reason could try to build a case against UVM to allow attendance. But the requirement is in reaction to a health emergency.

“States have wide discretion to mandate vaccines to combat public health crises. And that’s why you see colleges and universities mandate vaccines for other illnesses,” Carter said.

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