Rutgers University announced on Thursday that students must be fully vaccinated against Covid-19 to attend in the fall, becoming an early adopter of a policy that colleges everywhere are considering. The policy carves out exemptions for medical and religious reasons, and for students taking classes fully online.
“From the onset of the pandemic, the safety of the broader Rutgers community has been our shared responsibility,” wrote President Jonathan Holloway and other university leaders in a message to the campus. “This has never been more true. The importance of an effective vaccination program to make our community safer for all cannot be overstated.”
Vaccine advocates say colleges, which oversee tens of millions of students and employees, could play a key role in the U.S. vaccination effort. Colleges have been reluctant to announce their Covid-19 vaccination policies, with many citing uncertainty around the legal authority to mandate the vaccines while they are authorized only for emergency use by the Food and Drug Administration. Experts expect the agency to approve the Covid-19 vaccines for regular use in the months ahead.
Rutgers has also been approved by the state to offer on-campus clinics to administer the shots when the vaccines become available, but the university urged all eligible faculty, staff, and students to get vaccinated as soon as possible.