Students walk around campus near the Cesar Chavez Student Center at San Francisco State University. (Steven Ho/Special to S.F. Examiner)

California’s massive UC and Cal State systems plan to require COVID-19 vaccinations this fall

Nina Agrawal, Teresa Watanabe, Colleen Shalby

Los Angeles Times

The University of California and California State University announced Thursday that they intend to require COVID-19 vaccinations for all students, faculty and staff on campus properties this fall once the Food and Drug Administration gives formal approval to the vaccines and supplies are sufficiently available.

The directive is the largest of its kind in U.S. higher education, affecting more than 1 million members of the two public university systems. More than three dozen colleges nationwide have already announced they will require vaccination for enrollment this fall, including Claremont McKenna and Harvey Mudd in Claremont.

But UC and Cal State have not yet taken that step because of questions over the legality of requiring vaccines before they have been formally approved by the FDA. Currently, the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines are being distributed under emergency-use authorization, although health experts expect formal approval of at least one of them by the fall. The Johnson & Johnson/Janssen vaccine is on pause due to concerns about blood clots.

As with other mandatory shots for measles, mumps, rubella and chicken pox, the COVID-19 directive would allow for students or employees to seek an exemption based on medical or religious grounds.

“Together, the CSU and UC enroll and employ more than 1 million students and employees across 33 major university campuses, so this is the most comprehensive and consequential university plan for COVID-19 vaccines in the country,” said Cal State Chancellor Joseph I. Castro.

UC President Michael V. Drake, a physician, said that vaccinations are 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.”

The two system leaders said they were making the announcement now to give students, families and employees ample time to plan their vaccinations before the fall terms begin. They will discuss the immunization plan with students, faculty and labor unions before any implementation.

“The state of California has been a leader in the administration of COVID-19 vaccines, and Californians receiving a vaccine has led to significantly reducing the transmission of COVID-19 in our state,” Castro said. “Continued vigilance will further mitigate the spread of the disease that has radically altered our lives over the past year. We will continue to strongly encourage all members of our respective university communities to receive a COVID-19 vaccination as soon as it is available to them.”

Both UC and Cal State plan for mostly in-person instruction and activities this fall, although the degree will vary by campus.

At Claremont McKenna College, President Hiram Chodosh announced this month that all students would be required to be fully vaccinated before returning to campus this fall. Those unvaccinated — exempted for medical or religious reasons, for instance — would be tested for the coronavirus twice a week. In addition, the campus plans “limited, infrequent, randomized community testing and sequencing to decipher any unexpected risk of resistant variants,” he said.

“It is now clear that a fully vaccinated community is the best way to reduce and eventually eliminate future restrictions on restoring our full in-person experience,” Chodosh said in his message to the campus community.

Vaccines are not required for K-12 schools because they are not yet approved for children under age 16.

In California, COVID-19 transmission and hospitalizations related to the virus are low and vaccinations are on the rise. More than 32% of the state has been fully vaccinated and more than 44% have had at least one dose, according to federal and state data. While those numbers continue to grow, a large chunk of the population has yet to get a shot.

Health experts believe that herd immunity — protection against the virus that occurs when a mass population has reached immunity through infection or vaccination — may be a long way off. But the idea of vaccine passports or requirements for vaccinations within certain spaces, such as school campuses or workplaces, could replicate that concept.

Some experts say that requiring vaccinations for students will make significant headway in containing the pandemic since young people at social gatherings have touched off COVID-19 spikes around USC and UC Berkeley, among other campuses.

While there has been no statewide or federal mandate ordering residents to get any emergency-authorized COVID-19 vaccine, there has been some indication already that a show of proof may be necessary at times. California recently allowed live indoor events and performances to occur for counties in the red, orange or yellow tiers. Evidence of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test are required for entry.

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.

Bay Area NewsCaliforniaCoronaviruseducationsan francisco news

If you find our journalism valuable and relevant, please consider joining our Examiner membership program.
Find out more at www.sfexaminer.com/join/

Just Posted

Gov. Gavin Newsom, show here speaking at the City College of San Francisco mass vaccination site in April, faces a recall election due to anger on the right over his handling of the pandemic, among other issues. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
Why Gavin Newsom’s popularity could work against him in the recall election

Top pollster: ‘We’re not seeing the Democrats engaged in this election. And that may be a problem…’

Passengers ride the 14-Mission Muni bus on Friday, March 12, 2021. (Jordi Molina/Special to S.F. Examiner)
Transit officials fear Free Muni pilot could hurt already-strained service levels

Supporters say fare cuts could increase ridership, help low-income residents

The vacant property at 730 Stanyan St. in the Haight currently houses a safe sleeping site for the homeless. <ins>(Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)</ins>
Affordable housing project on former McDonald’s site delayed as city adds units

The start of construction on an affordable housing project on the site… Continue reading

Visitors read a notice hanging on the Polk Street entrance to City Hall on Thursday, March 26, 2020, shortly after the building was closed. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
City Hall reopening to the public on June 7 after long closure due to COVID-19

San Francisco will reopen City Hall to the public on June 7… Continue reading

Historic streetcars are undergoing testing on The Embarcadero to prepare for their return to service on May 15.<ins></ins>
What to expect for Muni Metro’s relaunch on May 15

Significant service restoration includes downtown subway tunnels and historic streetcars

Most Read