It may be a nationwide first: New Jersey's Rutgers University on Thursday announced that students will need to show proof of vaccination in order to attend in-person classes for the fall 2021 semester. Exemptions may be requested for medical or religious reasons, reports CNN. The Middlesex Daily Voice notes that students taking online classes only, as well as individuals taking continuing-ed courses via the school's online platform, won't need that vaccine card. "We are committed to [the] health and safety for all members of our community, and adding COVID-19 vaccination to our student immunization requirements will help provide a safer and more robust college experience for our students," Rutgers President Jonathan Holloway says in a release.
The Daily Voice notes that students who aren't yet 18 will be advised to get the Pfizer vaccine, as so far that's the only one approved in the US to be given to 16- and 17-year-olds. An attorney tells CNN such a mandate from universities is legal, as it would be from employers, as long as room is made for exemptions. But some experts contend it's more of a "gray area," as so far the three vaccines in play in the US have only received emergency use authorization, not full approval, from the FDA. Dr. Howard Forman, the director of the MD/MBA program at Yale's School of Medicine, says it's a "very favorable proposition" to get the COVID jab right now, but he adds that, in terms of biomedical ethics, "you ... [want to protect] individual choice in the matter as much as possible." Students across the US, however, seem to be in favor of such a mandate: In a late January survey of 1,000 undergrads, 71% said colleges have the right to require students to be vaccinated. (Read more Rutgers University stories.)