Education

UVM will require students to be vaccinated against Covid-19 for fall semester

The University of Vermont campus in Burlington. File photo by Glenn Russell/VTDigger

Updated at 4:01 p.m.

The University of Vermont is requiring that all students be vaccinated against Covid-19 for the fall semester — once a vaccine gets permanent approval from the federal Food and Drug Administration.

The Moderna, Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson vaccines now available have all been given emergency provisional approval.

The state’s largest university announced Wednesday afternoon that, when at least one of the vaccines gets final FDA approval, vaccines will be required for full- and part-time students. 

The requirement will take effect for this fall, provided the vaccine approval occurs. Students will also be required to provide proof of their vaccination status.

UVM announced the decision weeks after several other Vermont colleges said students will be required to become vaccinated to attend school this fall. Bennington College, St. Michael’s College and Champlain College are also requiring that students be vaccinated. 

Middlebury College is requiring that faculty, staff and students be vaccinated unless they provide a medical or religious exemption. 

No requirement is being made for UVM faculty and staff. In its announcement, UVM said it will continue to “encourage” faculty and staff to become vaccinated. 

When asked why faculty and staff aren’t being required to get the vaccine, UVM spokesperson Enrique Corredera said vaccination rates among students are much lower than in older populations. 

“Students on a college campus form a different population with unique characteristics,” Corredera wrote in an email to VTDigger. “They come from states all over the country with a wide range of vaccination rates; they spend most of their time on campus living in close quarters.” 

He did not respond to an inquiry about whether legal concerns were preventing the university from requiring staff and faculty to receive the vaccine. Employers have been debating across the country whether they can require their employees to vaccinate themselves against Covid-19. 

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission recently advised that employers can mandate shots. And dozens of colleges across the country are also requiring that all employees become vaccinated, according to a database created by the Chronicle of Higher Education

UVM Faculty Senate President Chris Burns said the body hasn’t taken a formal stance on required vaccinations for faculty, staff or students. In an email to VTDigger, he said he personally supports the requirement for students. 

Julie Roberts, president of UVM’s faculty union United Academics, told VTDigger that the union has not taken a position on vaccine requirements for faculty and that she has not heard considerable feedback for or against the idea. The university has yet to approach the union about the idea, she said, and hopes that they will if it’s something UVM wants to pursue.

The UVM Staff Council did not immediately respond to a request for comment from VTDigger.

UVM Student Government Association leaders Sam Pasqualoni, president, and Olivija Stephens, vice president, told VTDigger in an email that they support the vaccination requirement for students. They said they viewed the measure as a way to protect students and the broader Burlington community. 

“Students at UVM are already required to have certain vaccinations before coming to campus, so it makes sense that the Covid vaccine would be added to this list,” they wrote. “Ultimately, the vaccine will help our community transition back into fully in-person learning and events, which is a high priority for a lot of students.”

Pasqualoni added that he also thinks there should be a vaccination requirement for faculty and staff.

Corredera also told VTDigger that in “rare instances” students will be allowed to forgo the vaccination requirement if they have “unique health or religious reasons.” They will be required to fill out a form with the university by Aug. 1. 

This story was updated June 10 at 10:06 a.m.

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Grace Elletson

About Grace

Grace Elletson is VTDigger's government accountability reporter, covering politics, state agencies and the Legislature. She is part of the BOLD Women's Leadership Network and a recent graduate of Ithaca College, where she was editor in chief of the Ithacan. She previously interned for the Chronicle of Higher Education, The Christian Science Monitor and The Cape Cod Times, her hometown newspaper.

Email: [email protected]

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