Largest colleges push student vaccines with mandates, prizes

Sep 14, 2021, 10:14 PM | Updated: Sep 15, 2021, 9:54 pm

STORRS, Conn. (AP) — As a new semester begins amid a resurgence of the coronavirus, 26 of the 50 largest public university campuses in the U.S. are not mandating that students be vaccinated, according to an analysis by The Associated Press.

Approaches on enforcement vary widely even among universities that do have vaccine mandates, with some offering leniency for students who opt out and others expelling those who do not comply.

Administrators are emphasizing high numbers for student vaccinations as key to bringing some normalcy back to campus and keeping instruction in classrooms rather than online. Where mandates face political opposition, schools are relying on incentives and outreach to get more students vaccinated.

The universities without vaccine mandates include many of the country’s very largest and account for roughly 55% of students enrolled at the 50 biggest overall, according to the AP analysis, which looked at the largest campuses by 2019-2020 enrollment that offer on-campus housing and award bachelor’s degrees.

Universities with vaccine mandates are concentrated in the Northeast and California. Almost all of those without mandates are in states that have restricted the ability to implement COVID-19 vaccine requirements, including Florida, Texas and Arizona.

Here is a look at approaches that three public universities are taking to get students vaccinated:

UNIVERSITY OF CONNECTICUT

Students are required to be vaccinated, but the school has been lenient with those opposed to getting the shots. It has granted over 800 exemptions without denying a single request, no matter the reason.

Officials are working with students who have not complied with the mandate to understand their concerns about the vaccines, said the university’s interim president, Dr. Andrew Agwunobi, a pediatrician.

“We would be very sensitive to the fact that there is misinformation out there, that we might need to educate the student,” he said. “So it’s about trying to work with that student to understand what their concerns are, trying to get them to the right place in terms of vaccinations.”

The campus set up clinics for unvaccinated students to get shots as they arrive. Among those who signed up was graduate student Cindy Barreto, who said it was hard to get an appointment back home in Brazil, where her brother was hospitalized in intensive care with the virus.

“I know people who are waiting to get the vaccine, and I would say don’t do that,” she said.

At the school in Storrs where 25% of classes were online last year, students are hoping for a better experience this fall. About 90% of classes were expected to be in person this semester at the university where about 11,000 of the 19,000 undergraduates live on campus. All students must wear masks indoors, and those who are unvaccinated face weekly testing.

“I was at my friend’s residence hall, and I was just talking to a bunch of people, and I was like, ‘I haven’t done this in a while, especially with people my age,'” said Sahiti Bhyravavahala, a sophomore from Avon, Connecticut, who spent her freshman year at home taking classes online. “So, yes, it does feel surreal for sure, overwhelming as well. But I’m also very excited to get to know people.”

Ten COVID-19 infections have been recorded among students since the semester began, according to UConn, where officials say 97% of students are vaccinated.

UNIVERSITY OF CENTRAL FLORIDA

The Orlando campus is holding a raffle with prizes for vaccinated students, offering the shots at its student health center and rolling out a campaign urging students to get “Vacci-Knighted” — a play on the name of its sports teams, the Knights.

But an executive order from Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis prevents the school and other organizations in Florida from mandating vaccines.

Many professors are scared because they don’t know who is vaccinated, said Joseph Harrington, a physics professor and chair of the UCF Faculty Senate. He’s part of a group of state faculty petitioning the governor to allow schools to set their own policies.

“There are some large classes where students are sitting in the aisles because they’re afraid to sit next to other students,” Harrington said. “They want to be socially distanced, but they can’t, because we’re not allowed to reduce capacity because of COVID. We are required to teach in fully densified classrooms.”

In the first week of classes, random sampling found 72.6% of those surveyed had at least one vaccine dose, university spokesman Chad Binette said. He said the school is using incentives to try to push that number higher, including the raffle where vaccinated students have a chance to win textbooks, computers and $5,000 worth of tuition and fee waivers.

The university says some 12,000 of its 72,000 students live on campus. It’s recommending students wear masks inside.

Over the two weeks ending Sept. 11, the university reported 377 COVID-19 infections among students.

UNIVERSITY OF VIRGINIA

Students who don’t comply with a school vaccine mandate or apply for a religious or medical exemption have been kicked out.

Near the start of the semester, 193 students had been unenrolled for not getting the shots, according to Dr. Christopher Holstege, director of student health and wellness. He said the policy aligns with requirements that students be vaccinated for other diseases such as measles and mumps.

The university called and sent emails and text messages to students who had not complied to work with them on getting their shots or an exemption, said Susan Davis, vice president for student affairs. She said all of those who were unenrolled will be welcomed back in January or later if they follow the mandate.

About 97% of the school’s 25,000 students and 92% of staff are vaccinated, officials said. Anyone on campus who is not vaccinated must wear a mask around others — indoors and outdoors — and undergo weekly COVID-19 testing.

So far this semester, the school has reported 255 COVID-19 cases among students.

It’s offering more than 90% of classes in person, compared with last semester, when about half were online.

Mallory Griffin, a senior, said most students have no issue with the vaccine mandate.

“I think the consensus among at least everyone I’ve talked to and all of my friends is that we’re glad that everybody is vaccinated or getting vaccinated, because that just brings us one step closer to hopefully being able to return completely to normal,” Griffin said.

____

DiPierro reported from San Diego. Associated Press writer Skip Foreman contributed from Winston-Salem, North Carolina.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

FILE - Facebook's Meta logo sign is seen at the company headquarters in Menlo Park, Calif. on Oct. ...
Associated Press

FTC challenges Meta acquisition of VR company in court

Federal regulators will open their campaign to block Facebook parent Meta’s acquisition of a virtual-reality company, with opening statements beginning Thursday in a San Jose, California, courtroom. In a landmark legal challenge to a Big Tech merger, the Federal Trade Commission has sued to prevent Meta’s acquisition of Within Unlimited and its fitness app Supernatural, […]
6 hours ago
FILE - In this photo taken on Oct. 5, 2015 a woman walks by the entrance to the European Court of J...
Associated Press

EU court: Google must delete inaccurate search info if asked

LONDON (AP) — Google has to delete search results about people in Europe if they can prove that the information is clearly wrong, the European Union’s top court said Thursday. The European Court of Justice ruled that search engines must “dereference information” if the person making the request can demonstrate that the material is “manifestly […]
6 hours ago
In this image taken from footage by Saudi State TV, Chinese President Xi Jinping, left, listens to ...
Associated Press

China’s Xi at Saudi palace to meet royals on Mideast trip

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Chinese leader Xi Jinping met on Thursday with Saudi Arabia’s king and the crown prince while on a visit to the kingdom, solidifying ties with a region crucial to his country’s energy supplies as sanctions intensify on Russia over its war on Ukraine. Xi arrived at Al Yamama Palace […]
6 hours ago
FILE - Surgeon and doctor-turned-refugee, Dr. Tewodros Tefera, prepares a malaria test for 23-year-...
Associated Press

WHO: COVID disruption resulted in 63,000 more malaria deaths

The coronavirus pandemic interrupted efforts to control malaria, resulting in 63,000 additional deaths and 13 million more infections globally over two years, according to a report from the World Health Organization published Thursday. Cases of the parasitic disease went up in 2020 and continued to climb in 2021, though at a slower pace, the U.N. […]
6 hours ago
FILE - Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen speaks with reporters during a visit to the Virginia Innovat...
Associated Press

On the money: Yellen’s next milestone is name on US currency

FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) — Faith in the U.S. dollar has often hinged in part on what Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen says. On Thursday, the focus will be on what she writes, as the government churns out its first currency bearing her signature. Yellen loops her capital “J” and “Y,” with the rest of her […]
6 hours ago
FILE- President Joe Biden speaks at Max S. Hayes Hight School, July 6, 2022, in Cleveland. Biden  ...
Associated Press

Biden releasing nearly $36B to aid pensions of union workers

President Joe Biden on Thursday is announcing the infusion of nearly $36 billion to shore up a financially troubled union pension plan, preventing severe cuts to the retirement incomes of more than 350,000 Teamster workers and retirees across the United States. The money for the Central States Pension Fund is the largest amount of federal […]
6 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

...
Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Prep the plumbing in your home just in time for the holidays

With the holidays approaching, it's important to know when your home is in need of heating and plumbing updates before more guests start to come around.
(Photo via MLB's Arizona Fall League / Twitter)...
Arizona Fall League

Top prospects to watch at this year’s Arizona Fall League

One of the most exciting elements of the MLB offseason is the Arizona Fall League, which began its 30th season Monday.
...
Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Ways to prevent clogged drains and what to do if you’re too late

While there are a variety of ways to prevent clogged drains, it's equally as important to know what to do when you're already too late.
Largest colleges push student vaccines with mandates, prizes