As Oregon’s private colleges mandate COVID-19 vaccinations, public universities hesitate



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Oregon’s public and private higher education institutions differ over whether to require COVID-19 vaccination for students returning to campus this fall. Two private colleges announced vaccination warrants over the past week, but public universities are opposed.

Last Thursday, the same day Lewis & Clark College announced that its students must be vaccinated against COVID-19, Willamette University in Salem issued the same warrant, except that its new policy also requires employees to be vaccinated.

Students and employees of Willamette University will be required to register their immunization information on online portals. As with Lewis & Clark students, Willamette will allow exemptions for medical or non-medical reasons and the university will assess each request on a case-by-case basis, their website states.

Oregon State University has decided not to require vaccination against COVID-19, student newspaper the Daily Barometer reported on April 22.

This decision could soon be the subject of public pressure. Governor Kate Brown, at a press conference on April 23, said she supported higher education institutions requiring COVID-19 vaccines.

“Our colleges and universities need vaccines of other kinds for the safety of their staff, their faculty and, of course, other students,” Brown said. “And I think it makes perfect sense that our universities and the state of Oregon require these vaccines.”

But public universities remain hesitant. University of Oregon and Portland State University tell WW that neither institution has mandated a vaccination against COVID-19 for the fall. But the two institutions left the door open to the introduction of a requirement.

“Portland State University does not currently require vaccines,” writes spokeswoman Christina Williams. “We are aware of Governor Brown’s statement today that she recommends a vaccine requirement. We will continue to monitor public health guidelines on this topic and adjust our policies to ensure a safe, healthy and fair environment for students and employees. “

The University of Oregon also has it covered.

“The university encourages all students, faculty and staff to get vaccinated, but does not require vaccinations,” wrote OU spokesperson Molly Blancett. “The university continues to closely monitor public health requirements, best practices and other factors to determine whether vaccinations will be needed in the future for those participating in face-to-face activities at OU. “

The decision of schools whether or not to impose vaccinations is an early indicator of what other large institutions will do. For now, the guarantee of a vaccinated campus seems to be limited to the most exclusive campuses.

The deadline for requests for proof of vaccination or exemption from Willamette University is the start of the fall term of 2021. Their website notes that this rule also applies to students who have already contracted the virus.

Consequences will likely follow for those who miss the deadlines.

“Employees or students who have not been fully immunized or who have not received an exemption within the above time frames cannot move around campus or attend classroom or campus activities, and may be subject to registration suspensions, disciplinary action or other requirements or restrictions to support community health, ”their website states.

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