For Fall Quarter 2021, the University of California and California State University announced that students, faculty, and staff who access campus facilities will be required to receive the COVID-19 vaccine in an effort to limit the spread of the virus. This requirement is contingent upon the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s full approval of one or more vaccines and reliable supply access.
The two university systems, which enroll more than 764,000 students, announced their plan on Thursday, April 22 as the number of students who have received the vaccine has increased. UC San Diego Health administered almost 400,000 doses of the vaccine to people aged 18 to 65 years old, with around 162,000 people now being fully vaccinated.
UC San Diego said that it will return to almost full capacity this fall, with 90 percent of students taking classes on campus. They also plan to accommodate at least 17,000 students in on-campus housing with no more than two students per room.
“The University of California believes that receiving a vaccine for COVID-19 is a key step our community members can take to protect themselves, their friends and family, and help end the pandemic,” said Ryan King, Associate Director of Media Relations for The University of California, to The UCSD Guardian.
During the start of the pandemic, the university adapted quickly by establishing the Return to Learn program that has set up fast and convenient ways for students to get tested weekly. This includes measures such as self-testing kits that started out at designated facilities on campus, but are also made available at widespread automatic vending machines.
This weekly testing combined with quick results significantly helped slow the spread of the virus. The infection rate for students living on campus has been at 0.1 percent since January.
In the next few months, the state courts will decide whether public agencies are allowed to mandate vaccines. Currently, the vaccine is under emergency use authorization which is a method to facilitate the availability and use of any medical measures, including vaccines.
Under the language of the emergency use authorization, people have the right to refuse or accept the vaccine because of any medical or religious reasons. Therefore, public agencies will have to wait for formal approval from the state courts before the policy is finalized.
Shrina Patel, a freshman biology student at Roger Revelle College, told The Guardian that she proposed this new policy from UC.
“I believe this is a great thing because the efficacy rate of the vaccination is really high and the vaccines have been proven to protect against COVID-19…” Patel said. “[I] hope that things will go back to normal soon based on this requirement and look forward to being able to see people on campus.”
Under the proposed policy, students who choose not to be immunized and are not exempt based on medical or religious grounds will still be allowed to receive university services. However, they will be limited in course registration, will not be allowed to access campus –– including student housing –– and will not be permitted to attend in-person classes or events. After receiving the vaccine, students will need to update their immunization records to gain access to the UC campuses.
For students who are unable to receive their doses before the school year, student health centers will try to find possible places in their area where students can get vaccinated. However, special accommodations will likely be required for these students.
As a result of the pandemic, UCSD had to shut down many labs and slow the progress of their research. Many people lost their jobs and the isolation has been devastating for students and teachers. Many professors found it difficult to teach classes and engage students when everything was online. It is estimated that the lockdown could cost UCSD more than $300 million.
With the hopes of returning onto campus Fall Quarter 2021, continued vaccination will be an integral part of the process to return to in-person learning. Masks, physical distancing, and frequent hand-washing will also continue to be a campus requirement.
Photo courtesy of UC San Diego.