Getting ready for the first year of college is equal parts exciting and hectic. As families gear up for this big transition, there’s plenty to do. From textbook lists to class registration to finding the right sheets to fit dorm room beds, the to-do list can seem endless, but upcoming college freshman and returning students alike may be wondering if they need to add getting a COVID-19 vaccine to the list.
College policies on vaccine requirements vary from campus to campus. Let’s take a look at the trends and how things have changed over time.
Covid Vaccine Requirements Vary Widely
The Chronicle of Higher Education has a running list of colleges and universities that have issued vaccine mandates. As of October 13, 2021, that list totaled 1,066 schools with such requirements. However, the distribution of these schools is not even across the country.
In fact, The Chronicle demonstrates a clear correspondence between the state’s overall political leaning in the last presidential election and whether or not the schools in that state are likely to mandate the vaccine. Predictably, states that voted for Biden are more likely to issue these requirements.
Another major factor in the vaccine mandates for college and university students has been the vaccine’s official status. As of late August, Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine has been fully approved by the FDA, clearing a hurdle that kept some institutions from mandating vaccinations.
Beginning in early September, there was a marked increase in the number of colleges and universities issuing a vaccine requirement.
Adding another layer of complication to the requirements is the difference between public and private schools and the methods by which decisions are made in each type of institution. While public schools may be beholden to legislative mandates (for or against vaccination requirements), private schools often have more leeway to create their own policies. This means that private schools may have requirements that go against statewide trends.
Can I Get an Exemption?
Many incoming college students wonder if they can get an exemption to the COVID-19 vaccine requirement if there is one in place on their campus. The short answer? It depends.
Some colleges and universities have rather straightforward exemption processes for medical or religious reasons, but others are issuing such exceptions extremely sparingly.
Since disruptions to classes caused by on-campus COVID-19 outbreaks can be so devastating to the progress of the school year, many colleges and universities with vaccine mandates are reluctant to allow many exemptions when doing so could put the campus at risk for instability.
Those who plan to apply for a vaccine exemption should carefully examine the policies for the individual college or university. These applications often have deadlines, and missing the deadline could mean losing access to classes or dorm rooms.
Does My College Have a Vaccine Requirement?
This list of current vaccine requirements is quickly searchable by state, and you can use it as a starting point to see if your school has issued a COVID-19 vaccine requirement.
Most colleges and universities will also have this information readily available in the welcome package information for incoming or returning students as well as on their websites. If you have questions about the specific details of your individual school’s requirements, you should go directly to their policies to make sure you have the most accurate and up-to-date information.