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University of Michigan, MSU require vaccinations for fall; others may follow

U of M
Thousands of University of Michigan students, staff and faculty have 30 days to get vaccinated or face “disciplinary procedures.” (Bridge file photo)

Aug. 24: Michigan colleges hope raffles boost COVID-19 vaccinations in time for fall
Aug. 16: Michigan colleges set fall requirements for masks and COVID-19 vaccines
Related: Vaccine mandates increase among Michigan employers. What you need to know.

Aug. 3: Wayne State University issues vaccine mandate; Central Michigan requires masks

Michigan State University and the University of Michigan campuses in Ann Arbor, Dearborn and Flint will require all students, staff and faculty to be vaccinated against COVID-19 for the fall semester.

The vaccine mandate extends to Michigan Medicine, and to students who plan to learn remotely at any of the three U-M schools.

At MSU, students, staff and faculty must not only be vaccinated, but must wear face masks inside university buildings for at least the first few weeks of the semester.

The U-M announcement was made in an email to students, staff and faculty early afternoon Friday. MSU followed with its own announcement at 4:30 p.m.

Related:

They are the first of Michigan’s 15 public universities to mandate vaccinations for everyone associated with their campuses, though some other universities are requiring vaccinations for students living on campus.

“We’re making this announcement today to allow those who remain unvaccinated the time to begin their vaccination series in the month ahead,” the U-M statement said in part. “While we will provide limited exemptions for medical and religious reasons, it is imperative that all members of our community are protected from this devastating virus.”

Students, staff and faculty are being asked to show proof of at least one dose of vaccine by Aug. 30.

You can read the U-M letter here.

As of July 30, roughly 81 percent of students and 74 percent of faculty and 64 percent of staff on the Ann Arbor campus reported being vaccinated, and 76 percent of Michigan Medicine employees already have reported their COVID-19 vaccinations, according to the school’s COVID dashboard.  Student vaccination rates at the Dearborn and Flint campuses weren’t readily available Friday.

For the state as a whole, 58 percent of Michiganders aged 12 and up have had at least one dose of vaccine.

Even with higher-than-average vaccination rates, there are thousands of U-M students, staff and faculty who will need to get shots in the next 30 days, before classes begin on the three campuses Aug. 30.

“Ultimately, non-compliant students, faculty and staff will be subject to appropriate campus disciplinary procedures,” the letter warns, without listing specifics.

“We acknowledge the magnitude of this decision and we do not make it lightly,” the letter continues. “Following our principles of putting the safety of our faculty, staff, students and patients first, we are confident this is the right approach.”

In a Zoom news conference, MSU President Samuel Stanley, who has a background in infectious disease research, said the university’s decision was impacted by a U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report Thursday that Stanley said is “very troubling.”

That report said the new Delta variant of COVID-19 is much more infectious than earlier versions of the virus, and that those who are vaccinated could on occasion become infected. Even though they are much less likely to be hospitalized from the variant than those who are unvaccinated, they can spread the virus to others, the report stated.

“One of the main drivers (of the vaccine mandate) is could we reach a level of percentage of population vaccinated among our community that would allow us to be much safer against Delta,” Stanley said.

Beyond required vaccinations, those on the MSU campus will need to wear masks at the beginning of the semester, Stanley said, in hopes of further cutting down on virus spread.

The new vaccine and mask policy will not be applied to fans at MSU football games at Spartan Stadium, because the stadium is outside, Stanley said.

“We’ve always said we want to be driven by the science … and what’s happening in the community,” Stanley said. 

The announcements follow a flurry of troubling news about the coronavirus and its more-contagious Delta variant. Nationally, after steep declines in infection and hospitalization rates as vaccination rates rose this spring and early summer, the virus is again spreading in some states. In Michigan, new daily cases are now averaging 573 – a jump from recent weeks, but still far below the peak of more than 7,000 daily cases in April.

In May, Albion College was the first Michigan campus to announce it would require COVID vaccinations for all students, faculty and staff for the fall. The University of Detroit-Mercy will require vaccinations, as will Kalamazoo College. Most campuses however have not so far issued mandates, though a few have announced vaccine requirements for students living on campus, including Oakland University.

In recent weeks, more universities around the country have announced vaccine mandates. The 484,000-student California State University system of colleges announced this week it was requiring proof of vaccinations for the fall. A federal judge ruled last week that Indiana University’s vaccine mandate for the fall was legal and the school was pursuing “legitimate public health aims.”

While more of Michigan’s public universities may introduce vaccine mandates, it’s likely there will be a mix of policies among the schools, said Dan Hurley, CEO of the Michigan Association of State Universities.

“Every institution is using a whole variety of factors on the ground in decision-making,” Hurley said. “When these decisions are made, public safety is No. 1.”

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