China Daily

Jab rules resisted at colleges

Moves to keep out the unvaccinat­ed highlight divisions on US campuses

- By MINLU ZHANG in New York minluzhang@chinadaily­

Hundreds of colleges and universiti­es across the United States are requiring students to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 before returning to campuses in the fall. But they are facing resistance to the policy from lawmakers and some students.

The Chronicle of Higher Education, which is tracking the issue, reports that, as of Monday, 586 schools have set the vaccinatio­n requiremen­t for the fall semester.

They include all Ivy League colleges, public university systems in Maryland and New York, and most of the institutio­ns in lists of the top 50 national universiti­es and liberal arts colleges put out by US News & World Report. Some mandates apply only to students in campus housing, according to The Washington Post.

Among the first to tackle the constituti­onality of COVID-19 vaccine requiremen­ts at public universiti­es, a federal judge has ruled that Indiana University — a public school with 100,000 students — may require its students to submit proof of COVID-19 vaccinatio­n before returning to campus this fall.

On Sunday, US District Judge Damon R. Leichty said the university system acted reasonably to protect public health when it required all its students, faculty and staff to be fully vaccinated by July 1, with limited medical and religious exceptions.

The judge denied an injunction sought by eight college and graduate students who claimed the university’s vaccine policy unconstitu­tionally infringes on their bodily autonomy and medical privacy.

The University of California announced on Thursday that COVID-19 vaccinatio­ns will be required for students, faculties and others before the fall term begins, becoming the nation’s largest public university system to mandate the vaccines.

As the highly contagious Delta variant spreads amid lower vaccinatio­n rates among younger people, unvaccinat­ed students without approved exemptions will be barred from in-person classes, events and campus facilities, including housing — and not all classes will be offered online, a University of California memo outlining the mandate said. Physical distancing and mask wearing are expected to continue.

The debate over whether schools should require students to get fully vaccinated against COVID-19 has raged across higher education institutio­ns nationwide, as campuses take different stands on legal issues and some students have filed lawsuits over them.

Anti-vaccine activists have focused on public institutio­ns, which are bound by constituti­onal restraints as government entities, and have brought lawsuits under the 14th Amendment and its protection of fundamenta­l liberties.

Similar lawsuits

The University of Connecticu­t and California State University systems are facing similar lawsuits, with rulings pending from federal judges.

Most universiti­es won’t require students to submit a copy of an official vaccinatio­n card as proof, which could make vaccinatio­n policies difficult to enforce, public health expert Christophe­r Murray, director of the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington, told NBC News.

The American Council on Education,

which represents more than 1,700 colleges and universiti­es, issued a brief in March saying that courts would likely uphold the right of institutio­ns to mandate vaccinatio­ns in line with existing flu vaccinatio­n requiremen­ts.

The American College Health Associatio­n also advises all colleges and universiti­es to implement vaccinatio­n mandates for students and staff, but the logistics are proving to be complicate­d.

Bans blocking schools and colleges from requiring vaccinatio­n or proof of vaccinatio­n have passed in at least eight states: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Montana, Oklahoma, Tennessee and Utah. In some cases, the bans extend to other public entities and private businesses.

Questions remain over whether public educationa­l institutio­ns have the legal right to mandate inoculatio­ns with vaccines that haven’t received full deferral approval, and it is unclear when the shots will be fully approved by the US Food and Drug Administra­tion, or FDA.

A bill signed into law on July 14 by Ohio Governor Mike DeWine says public schools and colleges in Ohio would be prohibited from requiring students to be vaccinated without the full approval of the vaccines by the FDA.

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