As many post-secondary schools reopened in the fall, and students returned for the spring semester, schools have seen positivity rates for COVID-19 spike, causing schools to focus on a way to stop the spread.
With COVID-19 vaccines becoming more available, colleges have begun to require vaccinations in order for students to return to campus in the fall. Most colleges already require vaccinations for viral diseases such as measles, mumps and rubella, and colleges may add the COVID-19 vaccine to that list. Now that all people 16 years and older have access to the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, schools may use mandatory vaccination requirements as a way to control COVID-19 cases in school.
Since Rutgers University in New Jersey first announced mandatory vaccines, many other schools have followed suit and plan to require vaccines as a requirement for students to return in the fall. Earlier this month, Duke University in North Carolina, Brown University in Rhode Island and Syracuse University in New York, joined an approximate dozen other schools that have all said they plan to require vaccinations for their students to return to campus. As vaccines become more accessible, the likelihood of schools requiring vaccines grows.
Due to large social settings in college such as dorms, parties and off-campus housing, COVID-19 cases continue to rise in colleges, preventing colleges from staying safe. Although many students in schools such as Cornell University in New York have returned back to campus, these schools hold only around half of classes in person. Schools feel that, with vaccines, classes can return to normal, and colleges can bring students back to class.
Even with mandatory vaccinations, alternatives to keep schools safe exist, as many people may provide religious and medical reasons to not get vaccinated. Schools that have not stated that they would require vaccines, plan to maintain mask mandates, social distancing and frequent coronavirus testing as a replacement for a vaccine mandate. Rutgers University, a school that requires vaccines, plans to continue testing all teachers and students until health officials state otherwise.
Over the last year, colleges have struggled to keep campuses open due to the rise in cases and outbreaks. With mandatory vaccinations, schools hope that students can achieve herd immunity and return to normal in-person learning.