Rutgers University announced Thursday that students returning to its New Brunswick, New Jersey, campus this fall will be required to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19, making it one of the first universities in America to do so.
Rutgers “strongly” urged faculty and staff to seek vaccinations as well. Rutgers, New Jersey’s state university, has about 50,000 undergraduate students, 20,000 graduate students, and 25,000 faculty and staff.
Most big schools across the country have not yet announced whether they will require coronavirus vaccination for those who want to return to in-person learning. Around 70% of students would likely need to be vaccinated to protect the health of the community.
In a letter, Rutgers leaders cited assertions by President Biden that vaccines will be available for all adults who want one by early summer, and touted benefits of inoculation that include “greater interpersonal collaboration,” “a wider range of events and activities” and indoor dining.
The university aims to “move toward a full return to our pre-pandemic normal as a vibrant institution in Fall 2021,” said the letter, signed by the school’s president and two executive vice presidents.
Food and Drug Administration vaccine age limitations may limit options for some younger students. The Moderna and Johnson & Johnson shots are approved for use in anyone age 18 or older. Unless the FDA grants additional approvals, students who are 17 in the fall will only be eligible for the Pfizer vaccine, which can be given to anyone age 16 and up.
Students will be required to show proof of vaccination unless they qualify for a health or religious exemption, the school said.
Lynn Pasquerella, president of the Association of American Colleges and Universities, voiced agreement with Rutgers’ decision in an interview with NBC News.
“I’m just starting to hear discussion about mandating vaccines, and everyone I’ve talked to has said that they are leaning in the direction of mandating vaccines not just with the students, but with faculty and staff, as well,” Pasquerella told the outlet.
While some questions have emerged about the legality of mandating vaccinations in workplaces, experts believe employers have the right do so.
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