BERKELEY (KPIX 5) -- Students going to the California State University or the University of California this fall will be required to be vaccinated against COVID-19, according to a joint announcement from the university systems.
The requirement by CSU and UC systems is conditioned upon the full approval of one or more vaccines by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Currently, the FDA has approved three COVID-19 vaccines for emergency use: from Pfizer BioNTech, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson (Janssen), although the latter has been paused over isolated reports of blood clotting.
Full FDA approval of at least one of the vaccines is expected within months.
The policy is also contingent on an adequate supply of a fully-approved vaccine and would become effective at the beginning of the fall 2021 term, or upon full FDA approval of the vaccine, whichever occurs later.
"Together, the CSU and UC enroll and employ more than one million students and employees across 33 major university campuses, so this is the most comprehensive and consequential university plan for COVID-19 vaccines in the country," said CSU Chancellor Joseph I. Castro in a prepared statement. "Consistent with previous CSU announcements related to the university's response to the pandemic, we are sharing this information now to give students, their families and our employees ample time to make plans to be vaccinated prior to the start of the fall term."
"Receiving a vaccine for the virus that causes COVID-19 is a key step people can take to protect themselves, their friends and family, and our campus communities while helping bring the pandemic to an end," said UC President Michael V. Drake, M.D. in a press statement.
"I think it's perfectly reasonable," said UCSF epidemiologist Dr. George Rutherford, noting it's already done for measles and other diseases.
"I think for residential colleges, it has to be the right call. There are certain people who can't get vaccinated, like those who anaphylaxed to the first dose, so there will have to be a very small number of medical exemptions," Rutherford told KPIX 5.
UC Hastings law professor Dorit Reiss told KPIX 5 earlier this month that vaccine mandates don't run afoul of the law.
"Generally, vaccine mandates are legal, they're a workplace condition to increase health and safety. They are just as legal as requiring hand washing," Reiss said at the time.
The UC and CSU are not the first to float this idea. Rutgers in New Jersey and campuses in North Carolina are asking the same. But, the UC and CSU mandate would be the largest at over a million students.
If there is a wedge for a legal challenge, it's that the vaccines from Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson and Johnson currently only have emergency use authorization.
"This needs to move away from emergency use authorization to actual full licensure and these things become easier to mandate," Rutherford said.
Stanford University announced Thursday it would also require all undergraduate, graduate and professional students to be vaccinated for COVID-19 this fall. Faculty and staff were not included in the announcement, and the university said it would work to help arriving students get vaccinated if they have been unable to obtain one at their home location.
Stanford also said it would accommodate those who cannot take the vaccine for medical or religious reasons, and students who are approved for an exemption would be required to undergo regular COVID-19 testing.
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