COVID-19 vaccinations might become mandatory at colleges and universities

As college campuses target the fall semester for a return to "normal" learning, a new item will likely be added to the back-to-school checklist.

Proof of COVID-19 vaccinations might become mandatory for enrollment at U.S. colleges and universities come fall with more and more states opening up the vaccine pool to those 16 and above.

"I definitely do want to get the vaccine myself," Arizona State University (ASU), undergrad Alexis Rodriguez told Fox News, "just because my current work requires me to be around people and organize the community…as well as for my parents"


Rodriguez, who's studying social justice and human rights, is eager to return to campus. "Now that people are starting to get the vaccine, I'm starting to feel a little bit more comfortable wanting to go back in person."

However, not all students are so eager to the vaccine. Bryan Flores, an information security and business undergrad at ASU says he will most likely get the vaccine eventually, but not yet.

"It’s something that I’m on the fence about because I don't really feel that I need it at this moment," said Flores. "[Covid-19] is more dangerous for older people so I feel like they should be the ones that should get it first, and then at one point I will get it."

Flores says he is not alone in this way of thinking. 

"I have friends that definitely don't want it, they think that it's fake, and they don't want any part in it," said Flores.

But like so many people, he admitted he also has friends "that are really interested in getting it because they care, they want to protect their families." 

However, it may not be a choice for long. Rutgers University in New Jersey, was the first institution of higher learning to announce it will require all on-campus students to be fully vaccinated before the fall semester begins.

The university -- with more than 76,000 students spread among four campuses -- said students may request an exemption from the vaccination for medical or religious reasons.

In Oklahoma, officials at the University of Oklahoma, Oklahoma State University, and the University of Central Oklahoma told the Associated Press they have no current plans for a vaccine mandate for their students.

At the University of Arizona, administrators say they’ll keep things optional, for now.

"Because the vaccine is under an emergency use authorization, we can't mandate it. We're strongly encouraging," said university President Robert Robbins.  

Doctors with the Mayo Clinic are trying to alleviate fears over vaccine hesitancy. Dr. Melanie Swift says all three vaccines -- Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson -- options are safe for college-aged students and she highly recommends students get them, to not only protect themselves but the community.

"When colleges opened for on-campus learning back in the fall we had large outbreaks on college campuses so we know these students are susceptible to getting and transmitting the virus," said Dr. Swift. "If you're on the fence, and you want a normal life, you need to jump over the fence, this is the direction to a normal life."

Out of all three vaccines, the Pfizer shot is the only one currently approved for 16 and17-year-olds.

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