State schools

UC and California State schools will require COVID-19 vaccinations

The University of California and California State University announced Thursday that they will require COVID-19 vaccinations for all students, faculty and staff on campus properties this fall once the Food and Drug Administration will have given formal approval to vaccines and supplies sufficiently available.

The directive is the largest of its kind in U.S. higher education, affecting more than one million members of both public university systems. More … than five dozen colleges nationwide have already announced that they will require vaccination for enrollment this fall, including Yale, Princeton, Columbia and, in Claremont, Pomona and Claremont McKenna.

But the UC and Cal State systems have yet to take that step due to questions about the legality of requiring vaccines before they have been officially approved by the FDA. Currently, the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines are distributed under emergency use authorization, although health experts expect full approval of at least one of them by now. ‘fall. The Johnson & Johnson vaccine is on hiatus after reports of rare blood clots.

The COVID-19 Directive would allow for students or employees to apply for an exemption based on medical or religious grounds. Current UC requirements for vaccinations against diseases such as measles, mumps, rubella, and varicella allow for medical exemptions.

“Together, CSU and UC enroll and employ more than one million students and employees on 33 major college campuses, making this the most comprehensive and significant university plan for COVID-19 vaccines. 19 in the country,” California State Chancellor Joseph I. Castro said. noted.

UC President Michael V. Drake, MD, said vaccinations are a “key step people can take to protect themselves, their friends and family, and our campus communities while helping to put end to the pandemic”.

The two system leaders said they are making the announcement now to give students, families and employees ample time to plan their vaccinations before the start of fall terms. They will discuss immunization requirements with students, faculty and unions.

California Community Colleges, which serve 2.1 million students, said Thursday they would leave immunization policy decisions to the system’s 73 local districts. The Los Angeles Community College District, made up of nine colleges, has not yet announced whether it will need vaccines.

California Community Colleges Chancellor Eloy Ortiz Oakley encouraged students, faculty and staff to get vaccinated against COVID-19 to expedite the return to in-person instruction. “Everyone should make a plan now to get vaccinated if they haven’t already,” he said.

Dr. Carrie Byington, UC’s executive vice president who leads UC Health, said the university system — which includes six academic health centers and 10 campuses — seeks to set a national model in announcing immunization policy. System researchers and healthcare professionals have cared for California’s first COVID-19 patients, developed tests, trained contact tracers, and administered nearly one million vaccines statewide.

Now, UC and Cal State aim to use the collective gravity of two of the nation’s largest and most important university systems to encourage mandatory vaccination policies on other campuses. Only 64 campuses – just four of them public – among 5,300 colleges and universities across the country have been listed as requiring vaccinations on a Chronicle of higher education tracker from Thursday.

“We really wanted to lead in this space,” Byington said in an interview Thursday. “UC and CSU are very large systems, and we absolutely believe that vaccination will be necessary for us to return to normal levels of instruction on our campuses. And we know that’s a talking point right now across the country. We wanted to clearly communicate to our students, families, employees and others in higher education the importance of vaccination.

She said UC officials have started working on the Politics in October and concluded that vaccines were the most important tool for safely increasing density on campuses, which have been virtually closed for classes since March 2020. Their modeling indicated that outbreaks would still occur if less 50% of students were vaccinated, she said. .

Although COVID-19 vaccines haven’t accumulated decades of evidence of their effectiveness and safety — like those for influenza, for example — Byington said data from hundreds of millions of vaccines administered in the United States indicate that the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are working well with “excellent safety”.

She added that less than 2% of UC students seek exemptions from current vaccine requirements.

Ashima Kundu, a 21-year-old neurobiology student at UC Irvine, said she and many of her friends support a vaccine demand.

“I don’t know how safe in-person school would be if there was no vaccination requirement,” said Kundu, who works as a paramedic and is vaccinated. “There are a lot of lecture halls where students sit next to each other, their elbows touching.”

Zahraa Khuraibet, president of the Cal State Student Assn., said student access to snaps is key to returning to campus.

“We want to make sure COVID doesn’t become an obstacle again,” she said. “There’s an excitement about being able to go back to campus, being able to interact with other students, going back to a learning environment that we’re all used to.”

The association will seek to ensure that Cal State sufficiently informs students of the new policy – including how to obtain the vaccine, request exemptions and submit verification – “to ensure that no one is excluded”, said Khuraibet.

Among Cal State faculty members, any vaccination requirements “may or may not” make an in-person return more palatable, depending on other applicable safety protocols, said Charles Toombs, president of the California Faculty Assn. . The union intends to negotiate the requirement for vaccines, he said.

The UC and Cal State systems are both planning primarily in-person instruction and activities this fall, though the degree varies by campus. Campuses expect to continue safety practices such as mask-wearing, distancing and hand-washing.

At Claremont McKenna College, President Hiram Chodosh announced this month that all students should be fully vaccinated before returning to campus this fall.

In an interview, Chodosh said the college is only requiring vaccines for students at this time due to outstanding questions about whether they might be required for employees before the FDA officially approves the vaccines. But he said he expected faculty and staff to get vaccinated “by choice”.

COVID-19 vaccines are not required for K-12 schools because they are not yet approved for children under 16.

In California, COVID-19 transmission and virus-related hospitalizations are low and vaccinations are on the rise. More than 32% of Californians have been fully vaccinated and more than 44% have received at least one dose, according to federal and state data.

Health experts believe that herd immunity – the protection against the virus that occurs when a mass population has achieved immunity through infection or vaccination – may still be a long way off. But the idea of ​​vaccine “passports” or vaccination requirements in certain spaces, such as school campuses or workplaces, could replicate that concept.

Some experts say requiring students to be vaccinated will make significant progress in containing the pandemic, as their social gatherings have sparked outbreaks of COVID-19 around USC and UC Berkeley, among other campuses. California fared better than other states in the Midwest and Northeast last fall when comparing outbreaks on campuses to the case rate of surrounding communities. But the number of infections among young residents who were generally asymptomatic was a major cause for concern.

“The college outbreaks precipitated a larger statewide epidemic,” said Dr. George Rutherford, an epidemiologist and infectious disease expert at UC San Francisco. “You have a lot of young people who have social interactions, to say the least, and who live next to each other in relatively close quarters and dormitories. I think mandating vaccines like we do for a bunch of other types of infectious diseases is a reasonable thing to do to prevent outbreaks and infections.

Such student outbreaks underscore the importance of campus vaccinations for broader public health, experts said.

“A public health strategy is also a good idea. It turns out that even if young people don’t get seriously ill with COVID-19, they are really good at transmitting [the] coronavirus,” said Dr. Kirsten Bibbins-Domingo, chair of the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics at UC San Francisco School of Medicine. “It is important that we can get young people vaccinated in order to slow transmission.”

Although there has not been a statewide or federal mandate ordering residents to obtain an authorized COVID-19 vaccine in an emergency, there have already been indications that a proof may be required at times. California recently allowed live indoor events and performances for red, orange or yellow tier counties. Proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test is required for entry.