Oregon colleges mull vaccination requirement for students

Coronavirus

Lewis & Clark College in Portland has decided to require students be vaccinated before the fall term begins

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Colleges and universities in Oregon are considering requiring students be vaccinated against COVID-19 before starting the 2021 fall term.

Schools that have already decided to require vaccination like Lewis & Clark College in Southwest Portland say the decision will allow more in-person instruction, school activities and safer dorm life. Lewis & Clark said it will allow medical exemptions and students enrolled in online programs will not be required to get the vaccine.

Many universities across the United States have made the decision to require vaccination, including Cornell, Notre Dame and Boston University. But most colleges and universities in Oregon are still undecided, including the University of Oregon, Oregon State, Reed College, Willamette University and George Fox.

Ben Cannon, the executive director of the Oregon Higher Education Coordinating Commission, said the decision is not an easy one for many reasons.

“Being able to manage any backlash to a requirement, to clearly explain why that requirement exists, who it applies to, what exceptions can be made for students who claim an exemption,” Cannon said.

Further complicating the choice is the fact that vaccine supplies have still not caught up to demand. Still, all schools are strongly encouraging students to get the vaccine. In Oregon, all college and university students are required by law to have their MMR vaccine series and many schools have individual requirements for vaccines such as the meningococcal and hepatitis shots. Some vaccines are only required for students living in dorms.

Some schools, including the U of O and OSU, are starting to hold mass vaccination clinics. Thousands of students have already signed up this week.

“It feels like folks are pretty excited and on board with getting the vaccine, I think for a lot of people it means a quicker return to like the normal that we had before,” said OSU student Joe Page.

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