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Some Universities Are Requiring Vaccinations Before Students And Staff Return To Campus. What Are The Legal And Logistics Questions?

A student walks near Royce Hall on the campus of UCLA on April 23, 2012 in Los Angeles, California.
A student walks near Royce Hall on the campus of UCLA on April 23, 2012 in Los Angeles, California.
Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

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Last week, Cornell University became the latest in a growing pool of higher education institutions to announce that COVID-19 vaccinations will be required for students to return to campus.

“Medical and religious exemptions will be accommodated, but the expectation will be that our campuses and classrooms will overwhelmingly consist of vaccinated individuals, greatly reducing the risk of infection for all,” according to a statement from President Martha E. Pollack and Provost Michael I. Kotlikoff. Rutgers University, which also recently announced a vaccine requirement, will provide exceptions. Students taking online courses will not be required to be vaccinated. Legal experts generally expect that colleges and universities can safely require students to be vaccinated, but there are a couple caveats. For one thing, the vaccines are under emergency use authorization, and access could be an issue— but by fall, these same vaccines could also receive full approval. 

Today on AirTalk, we’re learning more about what vaccine requirements for colleges and universities could look like. We’ll also take a look at what local schools are considering. Questions? Give us a call at 866-893-5722.


Luoluo Hong, associate vice chancellor for student affairs & enrollment management for the California State University (CSU); she tweets @Luoluo_Hong

Dorit Reiss, professor of law at UC Hastings, where her areas of expertise include vaccine law and policy, and a member of The Vaccine Working Group on Ethics and Policy, an independent, not-for-profit project that was formed to address key policy challenges associated with the testing and distribution of vaccines intended to prevent Covid-19 transmission in the United States; she tweets @doritmi

Robert Turner Schooley, infectious disease specialist and co-lead of UC San Diego’s COVID-19 management program