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Davis, California

Thursday, July 29, 2021

UC moves forward with COVID-19 vaccine mandate

While the draft policy proposed a mandate contingent on full FDA approval, the UC has announced plans to require vaccinations under emergency-use authorization
By REBECCA GARDNER — campus@theaggie.org

The University of California will require COVID-19 vaccines for students, staff and faculty returning to campus in the fall, altering its previous plan to wait for the vaccines to receive full approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

The UC Office of the President (UCOP) published a draft policy in April 2021, stating its intent to mandate the COVID-19 vaccine for all personnel, trainees and students accessing UC facilities. In the initially-proposed policies from both the UC and the California State University system, the enforcement of the mandate remained contingent on full FDA licensure of one of the existing vaccines.

The Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines remain under Emergency Use Authorization. 

Pfizer and Moderna have both applied for full approval which will likely take months to receive. Full FDA approval is expected to increase vaccine acceptance, according to The New York Times.

On June 11, Chancellor Gary May wrote in his weekly update to the campus community that the UC system’s final vaccine policy will be issued on July 15. 

“Under the forthcoming vaccine policy, UC will allow narrow medical exemptions and consider requests for accommodations based on disability or religious belief,” May stated in the update.

The university announced that all students and UC employees must verify their vaccine status or state their intent to obtain medical or religious exemption by July 15. Students, faculty and staff are expected to comply with the mandate within two weeks of returning to campus, according to the June 10 statement from UCOP.

In an email to The California Aggie, May stated that he believes the vaccine is safe and effective for all populations.

 “If anyone has concerns about vaccine safety, I encourage them to speak to their doctor,” May wrote. “For the vast majority of healthy people, I do believe the vaccine is safe and effective.”

As a limited number of courses will be offered remotely in the fall, May encourages students who can’t receive the vaccine due to health reasons to discuss possible classroom accommodations with the Student Disability Center

 “If concerns about COVID-19 will impact a student’s ability to attend classes in person, I encourage them to look into their options as soon as possible,” May stated. “Taking a leave of absence for the fall is one possibility.”

UC Davis shared that while fully vaccinated students are no longer required to participate in weekly testing, everyone is required to “wear a face covering in certain settings and circumstances.” Students with approved exemptions from vaccination will be required to wear masks in public. In the classroom, only instructors will be exempt from masking.  

Alan Sanchez, an incoming fifth-year applied statistics major, said that while he chose to receive the vaccine, he doesn’t wholeheartedly support the mandate.

“If people don’t want to take it, they shouldn’t be forced to take it,” Sanchez said. “Instead of [the UC] just deciding what to do, they should focus on the people’s voices.”

UCOP spokesperson Ryan King explained that the shifted policy followed a consultation period in which campus leaders indicated strong support to move forward with the mandate.

 “Over the past several weeks, President Drake has been consulting with chancellors, Academic Senate representatives, UC Health leaders and other university stakeholders on the proposed policy,” read a statement from the UC on June 10.

Sanchez expressed concern about the UC moving forward with the mandate without full FDA approval.

“It’s bound to backfire,” Sanchez said. “I’d say if it was 100% approved, most people would be glad to take it. There are people who are still skeptical about it.”

Alejandro Ramos Hurtado, an incoming third-year wildlife, fish and conservation biology major, said that he views the mandate as an essential measure to protect those returning to campus.

“I think it’s necessary for going back to in-person classes,” Ramos Hurtado said. “It’s the best that can happen with what is available.”

Students can verify their vaccination status through the Health-E-Messaging portal.  

Written by: Rebecca Gardner — campus@theaggie.org 

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