All Ohio University faculty, staff and students must be vaccinated against the coronavirus starting in November.
The university made the announcement on Tuesday, joining a cascade of public and private universities that began mandating coronavirus vaccination after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration gave full approval to Pfizer's two-dose mRNA vaccine. Ohio State University was the first to announce a COVID-19 vaccine requirement, one day after the FDA's approval. Kent State University followed on August 27, then Miami University on Monday. (The Chronicle of Higher Education's list of universities with vaccine mandates includes the University of Akron, but has no date of the announcement.)
Universities are a breeding ground for coronavirus, Ohio University President Hugh Sherman said in a letter to students.
“We need to do everything we can to continue to show our care and respect for one another and do our part to help keep the entire community safe and healthy,” Sherman wrote. “Therefore, after thoughtful consideration, in consultation with public health experts and in agreement with many of our peer institutions across the state, all OHIO students, faculty, and staff at all locations are required to be vaccinated against COVID-19.”
Students, faculty and staff must provide proof of full vaccination by Nov. 15, 2021, using the portal currently used for the COVID-19 Testing Pathway Program, according to the letter. (Shots with a two-dose regiment must be completed by that date.) The new policy applies to all employees, including those working remotely and all students, except those enrolled exclusively in fully online programs and coursework who will not enter university facilities on any campus in person.
The mandate accepts the three vaccines currently approved in the United States —Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson/Janssen — as well as those currently approved under a WHO Emergency Use Listing (EUL). The latter accommodates those who may be vaccinated in other countries. OU will update its policy if booster shots are recommended.
Exemptions may be requested for medical reasons or for reasons of conscience, including ethical and moral belief or sincerely held religious beliefs, the letter stated.
Sherman warned students that they must be vaccinated or have obtained an exemption if they plan to participate in any spring semester in-person activities — including face-to-face instruction and residence life — at any location.
“The vaccination is our best protection against COVID-19 and will ultimately help end the pandemic,” Sherman said.
Currently, Ohio University requires students, faculty and staff to either provide proof of full vaccination or submit to weekly asymptomatic COVID-19 testing. As of press time, about 59% of students and 80% of faculty and staff were fully vaccinated, according to the university's COVID-19 dashboard. Vaccination rates are highest among administrators (85.2%), faculty (83.7%), researchers (76.4%) and students living on campus (75.7%). Every segment of the university population has a vaccination rate above 50%.
Asymptomatic testing has identified 166 cases of COVID-19 among employees (9 cases), on-campus students (70) and off-campus students (87) through August 27, according to the university's dashboard. The dashboard for university housing shows 11 residence halls at the orange alert level, with up to 1.3% of residents diagnosed with COVID between August 20 and August 27. Three students were in quarantine and 16 were in isolation.