University of Hawaii to require COVID vaccines for students

May 18, 2021 GMT

HONOLULU (AP) — The University of Hawaii will soon require students to be fully vaccinated from COVID-19 to attend in-person classes or be on campus.

The rule will take effect when at least one of the three COVID-19 vaccines currently authorized for emergency use receives full approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported Monday. That could happen this summer.

“It is clear that a vaccinated campus is a safer campus for everyone, and a fully vaccinated student community enables the best opportunity for a healthy return to high-quality face-to-face teaching, learning and research,” said University of Hawaii President David Lassner in a statement.

The University of Hawaii System joins a growing list of colleges and universities throughout the U.S. that are requiring students to be vaccinated, including the University of California and California State University.

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The University of Hawaii System’s enrollment is about 49,600 across 10 campuses.

Students can request exemptions from the requirement for medical or religious reasons. Those who are not vaccinated will be able to enroll in online courses.

Other schools in Hawaii have not made the vaccine a requirement yet.

“We evaluate potential policy on our own schedule and will be in communication with our students, faculty and staff as we move into summer,” said Hawaii Pacific University spokesman Stephen Ward. “We will continue in-person on-campus this fall, as we did through this entire past academic year.”

Hawaii Gov. David Ige said that Hawaii is not yet considering requiring vaccines for younger students.

“We don’t at this point in time have plans to require vaccinations for public school students, or for private school students, for that matter,” Ige said.

The University of Hawaii is so far not requiring its approximately 10,000 employees to be vaccinated.

Christian Fern, executive director of the University of Hawaii Professional Assembly, which represents university faculty, said the matter would have to be negotiated through the collective bargaining process.

It “is important that we move forward carefully to ensure we balance public health and safety with individual choice and an individual’s existing health condition,” Fern said.