As a new semester begins amid a resurgence of the coronavirus, administrators and faculty across the country see high vaccination rates as the key to bringing some normality back to campus. When mandates meet political opposition, schools rely on incentives and awareness to get more students immunized.
An Associated Press analysis shows that 26 of the 50 largest public university campuses in the country do not require vaccination, which represents about 55% of students enrolled in these schools. The AP reviewed the largest campuses by enrollment 2019-2020 that offer on-campus housing and award bachelor’s degrees.
Here is an overview of the approaches taken by three public universities to vaccinate students:
UNIVERSITY OF CONNECTICUT
Students need to be vaccinated, but the school has been lenient with those who oppose vaccines. It has granted over 800 exemptions without rejecting a single request for any reason.
Officials are working with students who have not complied with the mandate to understand their concerns about vaccines, said the university’s acting president, pediatrician Dr Andrew Agwunobi.
“We would be very sensitive to the fact that there is misinformation, that we might need to educate the student,” he said. “So it’s about trying to work with this student to understand what his concerns are, to try to put them in the right place in terms of vaccination.
The campus has set up clinics for unvaccinated students to be vaccinated upon arrival. Among those who signed up was graduate student Cindy Barreto, who said it was difficult to get an appointment in Brazil, where her brother was hospitalized in intensive care with the virus.
“I know people who are waiting to get vaccinated, and I would say don’t,” she said.
At Storrs School where 25% of lessons were online last year, students are hoping for a better experience this fall. About 90% of classes were expected to be in-person this semester at the university where about 11,000 of the 19,000 undergraduates live on campus. All students must wear masks indoors, and those who are not vaccinated must have weekly tests.
“I was in my friend’s hall of residence, and I was just talking to a bunch of people, and I was like, ‘I haven’t done this in a while, especially with people my age,'” he said. said Sahiti Bhyravavahala, a sophomore. from Avon, Connecticut, who spent her first year at home taking classes online. “So, yeah, that sounds surreal for sure, overwhelming too. But I’m also very excited to meet people.
Ten COVID-19 infections have been recorded among students since the start of the semester, according to UConn, where officials say 97% of students are vaccinated.
CENTRAL FLORIDA UNIVERSITY
But an executive order from Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis prevents the Florida school and other organizations from requiring vaccines.
Many professors are afraid because they don’t know who is vaccinated, said Joseph Harrington, professor of physics and chair of the Senate at UCF faculty. He is part of a group of state teachers calling on the governor to allow schools to set their own policies.
“There are big classes where the students sit in the aisles because they’re afraid to sit next to other students,” Harrington said. “They want to be socially distanced, but they can’t because we are not allowed to reduce capacity because of COVID. We are required to teach in fully densified classrooms.
During the first week of class, a random sample found that 72.6% of those surveyed had at least one dose of the vaccine, university spokesman Chad Binette said. He said the school is using incentives to try to increase that number, including the raffle where vaccinated students have a chance to win textbooks, computers and $ 5,000 in tuition and waivers. expenses.
The university says some 12,000 of its 72,000 students live on campus. He recommends that students wear masks indoors.
In the two weeks ending September 11, the university reported 377 COVID-19 infections among students.
UNIVERSITY OF VIRGINIA
Students who do not comply with a school vaccination mandate or who request a religious or medical exemption have been expelled.
By the start of the semester, 193 students had been deregistered for not having been vaccinated, according to Dr Christopher Holstege, director of student health and welfare. He said the policy aligns with requirements that students be vaccinated against other diseases such as measles and mumps.
The university called and sent emails and texts to students who had not agreed to work with them to get their vaccines or an exemption, said Susan Davis, vice president of student affairs. She said anyone who has been deregistered will be welcomed 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 should wear a mask around others – indoors and outdoors – and take a weekly COVID-19 test.
So far this semester, the school has reported 255 cases of COVID-19 among students.
It offers over 90% of classes in person, compared to last semester when about half were online.
Elderly Mallory Griffin said most of the students had no issues with the vaccination warrant.
“I think the consensus among at least everyone I’ve spoken to and all of my friends is that we’re happy that everyone is getting vaccinated or getting vaccinated, because that brings us a little closer to the possibility, hopefully. the, to return completely to normal. “Griffin said.
DiPierro reported from San Diego. Associated Press writer Skip Foreman contributed from Winston-Salem, North Carolina.