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University of Hawaii to require students to get COVID-19 vaccine

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                                McCarthy Mall at University of Hawaii-Manoa campus


    McCarthy Mall at University of Hawaii-Manoa campus

Students enrolled in the University of Hawaii System in the fall will be required to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 in order to attend in-person classes or be on any of the system’s 10 campuses, the university announced today.

The requirement will take effect when at least one of the three COVID-19 vaccines currently approved for emergency use has been fully licensed by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, which could happen this summer.

“It is clear that a vaccinated campus is a safer campus for everyone, and a fully vaccinated student community enables the best opportunity for a healthy return to high-quality face-to-face teaching, learning and research,” UH President David Lassner said in a press release.

Lassner said the decision “does not come lightly” and is based on guidance from the university’s own Health and Well-Being Working Group and the recommendation of the American College Health Association.

Unvaccinated UH students will still be able to enroll in online courses and participate in student activities virtually.

Hundreds of other universities and colleges across the country are also requiring students to be vaccinated, including the University of California and California State University.

UH, which enrolls approximately 50,000 graduate and undergraduate students, already requires that students receive the MMR vaccine, which protects against measles, mumps and rubella, and Tdap vaccine, which can prevent tetanus, diptheria and pertussis. Varicella and Meningococcal Conjugate vaccinations are also required for first-year students who plan to live in on-campus housing. Students must also be tested for tuberculosis.

As with the current vaccine requirements, UH students will be allowed to request exemptions from the COVID-19 vaccine for medical or religious reasons.

Students who receive an exemption will be allowed on campus, but the details of how that would work are still being determined, said UH spokesman Dan Meisenzahl by email. For example, unvaccinated students may have to test for the virus once a week.

The university also said today that it is considering requiring all employees to be vaccinated, as well, and plans to initiate formal discussions with the three unions that represent university employees.

In the meantime, the university is encouraging all students and employees to get vaccinated now.

There are multiple ways to find a vaccine location or schedule an appointment. Residents can find vaccine locations throughout Hawaii via the state’s COVID-19 portal, find phamacies offering the vaccine with the CDC’s Vaccine Finder or text their zipcode to the number 438829 to find nearby locations offering the vaccine.

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