Universities are starting to lay out plans for COVID-19 vaccines for next school year.
Dozens of institutions across the country have announced plans to mandate them for students. However, out of nearly two dozen Florida schools ABC Action News checked in with only one, Nova Southeastern University, has announced plans to require them.
“I think we’re seeing more and more a trend that major universities, even smaller ones, are saying we want to bring students back. Everybody’s been disadvantaged as a consequence of it, we want to protect everybody so if you’re gonna come back you’re gonna have to have a vaccine. It’s not gonna be universal. Florida schools are probably going to wait to see what the governor says,” said Jay Wolfson, a senior associate dean at USF’s Morsani College of Medicine.
Florida’s governor previously issued an executive order that bans businesses from requiring a customer to prove vaccination. Meanwhile, a bill passed both state chambers that would make it so educational institutions, businesses and government entities can’t require documentation of vaccination for entry.
Many universities and colleges in Florida are encouraging vaccines.
“It’s my hope things are more under control but you know I’m afraid the virus is still going to be around for a while. Our schedules are going to be more like a normal year but we just want to be ready and prepared because we know that students want to have face to face education. We know that parents want their kids to go to college and we just want to do it in the safest way possible,” said Dr. David Hoag, the president of Warner University.
The private school had face-to-face classes this year, utilizing testing, and ending the year with reduced attendance, but in-person graduation. It now has a plan for the fall, too.
“Our plans are that either a student can come with proof of vaccination or we will continue to do the testing just like we did in January so we would if they haven’t been vaccinated we would do an antibody test and if they don’t have the antibodies then we would do a rapid test just to make sure they don’t have the virus,” Hoag said.
The University of Tampa said it’s strongly encouraging vaccines, but not mandating, presently. The University of South Florida said no decision had been made whether it will be required after it’s more widely available, though it’s not required currently. Florida State University is not requiring vaccines. The University of Central Florida strongly encourages vaccination.
“I think we’re all hoping that we’re going to get a high enough vaccination rate that we’ll achieve herd immunity. The danger with not doing that, especially with the population that is getting the disease now especially the 18-35 group, which is really spiking is that you have a reservoir of high potential for variants,” said Wolfson.
He also noted what he said could be a hitch. He explained while there are vaccine requirements in schools for things like small pox, measles, mumps and rubella, those are vaccines licensed. The COVID-19 vaccines are under emergency use authorizations.
“So some might argue the state can’t force you to do it in fact the federal government has said we’re not going to issue a mandate for vaccination, but private entities maybe able to do it and states may be able to try to do it and so far there has been little opposition to it,” Wolfson said.