Photo by Dom Fou via Unsplash

The University of California will require all students, staff and faculty to be vaccinated against COVID-19 this fall. The decision reverses an earlier policy that was announced in April that requires vaccinations only after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approves one of the three vaccines—Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson—that are currently being used under emergency authorization only. 

The announcement came from the University of California Office of the President last week. Campus leaders from each of the universities notified the finalization of the mandatory COVID-19 vaccination requirements for the fall through letters such as the ones from UC San Diego and UC Santa Cruz. The letter states that the “exact policy language and the systemwide implementation plan are still being crafted.”  

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According to these letters, the policy will take effect on July 15. Students, faculty, staff and essential workers are “expected to comply with the mandate two weeks before returning to campus or another UC location for the fall term.” The UC will exempt students from the vaccination requirement due to medical or religious reasons. 

In April, when the UC published a proposed COVID-19 vaccination policy, a consultation process with the community opened. Ryan King, Associate Director of Media Relations for the University of California Office of the President, told Scriberr News that the consultation period ended with “strong support within the university community, including faculty and student health physician directors, to move forward with a vaccination requirement.” 

The updated policy was announced in light of “maximiz[ing] the safety of all campuses and ensur[ing] sufficient lead time for compliance.” With the FDA expected to fully approve the vaccines eventually, UC said that by making vaccination mandatory now, it will give everyone ample time to comply. 

“The final policy, when issued on or around July 15, will represent a collaborative effort to ensure the health and well-being of every member of the UC community,” King told Scriberr News. 

“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,” Michael Drake, the President of the University of California, said in April

Prior to the April decision, UC did not announce vaccine requirements because of legality issues  in requiring vaccines that have not yet been fully approved by the FDA. Health experts expect the FDA’s full approval of at least one of the vaccines by the fall

“I think the COVID-19 vaccine is safe and effective. As long as the policy is implemented equitably, I think mandating vaccines before returning in the fall is a great way to promote the health of the campus community and prevent the further spread of COVID-19,” Monica Tsui, junior biological sciences major at UC Davis, told Scriberr News. 

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Dr. Carrie Byington, executive vice president and head of UC Health, told the LA Times that the UC system wanted to set a national model in announcing the vaccination policy in April. On April 26, the University of California Health (UCH) administered its one millionth dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. 

Additionally, Byington told the LA Times that less than 2% of UC students seek exemptions from the vaccine mandate. 

In-person instruction is expected to return to all UC campuses in the fall with start dates beginning throughout August and September. UC currently has more than 280,000 students and 227,000 faculty and staff

Some experts believe that requiring the vaccinations of students will make significant headway into containing the spread of COVID-19. 

Written ByVivian Kwang

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