The number of colleges and universities requiring COVID-19 vaccinations for their students is growing, especially in the tri-state area.
Rutgers University became one of the first major schools to announce such requirements for in-person learning for the fall, but many have followed the New Jersey school's lead.
The subject of vaccinations -- specifically, whether students should be required to be fully vaccinated before they return to campus in the fall -- has been a key point of debate for U.S. colleges and universities across the country.
Columbia University, Ithaca College, Cornell University, St. John's and Syracuse have similarly made decisions to make vaccines mandatory for students. Make sure to check with your school directly for latest requirements.
The university located in New York City began notifying faculty, staff and students on April 19 of their intention to require vaccines by the fall term.
"On the strong recommendation of our public health colleagues, who have advised us so ably throughout this process, President Bollinger and the Columbia University COVID Task Force have decided to make the COVID-19 vaccination mandatory for all students who are present on campus, starting this fall," the university stated in its announcement.
The university said it operates three vaccine locations to affiliates of Columbia, including two that are open to family members and other patients. A weekend pop-up site at the Forum has also helped vaccinate nearly 700 people in the past two weeks.
"We will provide religious and medical exemptions, as we do for the influenza and measles vaccines, in accordance with New York State public health laws," the university added.
Additional details on fall vaccination deadlines and exemption application information eventually be released on Columbia's website.
"In support of Rutgers’ commitment to health and safety for all members of its community, the University will be updating its Immunization Requirements for Students to include the COVID-19 vaccine. This health policy update means that, with limited exceptions, all students planning to attend in the Fall 2021 semester must be fully vaccinated," Jonathan Holloway said in an open letter.
Holloway said students will be allowed to apply for medical or religious exemptions. Online-only students will not be required to be vaccinated.
A spokesperson for the university said anyone who refuses to be vaccinated, and does not provide an exemption request, can either move to an online-only program or withdraw.
As for questions about the legal standing to require people to get a vaccine that's not yet fully approved by the FDA, Rutgers said it was on solid ground.
"The university is comfortable with the legal authority supporting this policy, which has been thoroughly reviewed by our Office of General Counsel," the spokesperson added.
St. John's University
St. John's made its announcement on April 21. Rev. Brian Shanley, O.P., president of the university, gave the details in the message below, which was sent college-wide.
"As of Monday, April 19, the COVID-19 vaccine is available nationwide to anyone aged 16 and over. As such, St. John’s will require all students to be vaccinated against the COVID-19 virus, and, to provide proof of vaccination before returning to campus for the fall semester. (Note: Exemptions from the COVID-19 vaccination requirement will be made for students with proof of a documented medical condition or due to religious beliefs.)"
"The ongoing risk of serious health consequences for anyone who contracts COVID-19, along with the greater public health threat, are but two strong reasons in favor of getting vaccinated. The well-being and safety of you—our students, faculty, administrators, and staff—is always the highest priority of St. John's, and, is my foremost daily prayer for you all."
"Working with the New York State Department of Health, St. John’s has received confirmation that we will receive doses of the Pfizer vaccine on Tuesday, April 27, 2021. The University will make those doses available to students first. The vaccine will be distributed free of charge. Additional information about scheduling an appointment to receive a vaccine will be sent to students this week."
University officials at Cornell made the decision to make vaccines mandatory for a fall return to campus, making its announcement on April 2.
"With the recent announcements of expanded vaccine eligibility in New York and other states, and increasing vaccine production, it is likely that all members of our community will be able to obtain vaccination sometime this spring or summer. Accordingly, Cornell intends to require vaccination for students returning to Ithaca, Geneva, and Cornell Tech campuses for the fall semester," Cornell President Martha Pollack and Provost Michael Kotlikoff said in a statement.
Cornell deployed its own "COVID-19 Proof of Vaccination tool" for students, faculty and staff to register their vaccine status. The university has made it mandatory for those groups to register in the tool by April 15.
"Medical and religious exemptions will be accommodated, but the expectation will be that our campuses and classrooms will overwhelmingly consist of vaccinated individuals, greatly reducing the risk of infection for all," the statement also said.
In its plans for a return to pre-COVID instruction, the university hopes to return all classes to in-person instruction if they were previously taught in that fashion, with no online option provided.