CALIFORNIA—On Thursday, April 22, the University of California (UC) and California State University (CSU) said in a joint press release that they plan on requiring staff and students to be vaccinated with the coronavirus vaccine for in-person classes this fall.

This “proposed policy” would “require students, faculty, academic appointees and staff who are accessing campus facilities at any UC location beginning this fall to be immunized against SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19” and said it will “go into effect once a vaccine has full approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA),” according to a press release by UC.

The FDA has not approved any COVID-19 vaccine and has only given an EUA (Emergency-Use Authorization) to vaccines by Moderna, Pfizer-BioNTech, and Janssen (Johnson & Johnson).  Currently, the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is on pause after the FDA and the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) “recommended a pause” as they “review data from six reported cases” of a “rare and severe type of blood clot in people who received the vaccine,” states the FDA’s website.

In the press release, UC President Michael V. Drake said that being vaccinated 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.”

CSU Chancellor Joseph I. Castro called the plan “the most comprehensive and consequential university plan for COVID-19 vaccines in the country” and noted that “together, the CSU and UC enroll and employ more than one million students and employees across 33 major university campuses,” in the same press release.

CSU and UC announced in December 2020 and January 2021, respectively, that they will reopen its campuses for in-person learning in fall 2021.  CSU has 23 campuses across the state while UC has 10.

According to the proposal, an exception to the vaccine requirement would be “based on a person’s sincerely held religious belief, practice, or observance, which includes any traditionally recognized religion as well as beliefs, observances, or practices, which an individual sincerely holds and which occupy in their life a place of importance parallel to that of traditionally recognized religions.”

In addition, medical exemptions would be given to those who have a disability or “to medical contraindications or precautions recognized” by the FDA or CDC.

The first university in the U.S. believed to require a COVID-19 vaccine is, according to NPR, Rutgers University in New Jersey, which made the announcement on March 25, 2021.

Other universities requiring the vaccine include: Duke University in North Carolina, University of Notre Dame in Indiana, Brown University in Rhode Island, Cornell University in New York, Northeastern University in Massachusetts, and others.

The news comes the same day that President Joe Biden announced that 200 million shots have been administered to Americans, with California Governor Gavin Newsom saying that more than 27 million of them went to CA residents.

According to the CDC, California has the second lowest coronavirus case rate in the country at 39.3 per 100,000 people.  Hawaii has the lowest at 39.2 per 100,000.

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