Harvard University is the latest college to announce it will require all students who will be on campus this fall to get a coronavirus vaccine.
The Ivy League school joins a number of colleges in Massachusetts that have already made the decision, including Boston College, Boston University, Northeastern University, the University of Massachusetts Amherst and Emerson College.
Harvard President Lawrence S. Bacow said in a message to the school community Wednesday that students should plan to be fully vaccinated before returning to campus for the fall semester -- meaning that at least two weeks have passed since receiving the final dose.
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Students are able to receive any of the FDA-authorized or approved vaccines (currently Pfizer, Moderna, or Johnson & Johnson) or vaccines that have been approved for emergency use by the World Health Organization (AstraZeneca/Oxford).
Exceptions will be allowed only for medical or religious reasons, as is the case with existing student requirements for other vaccines, Bacow said.
In a joint message with Harvard's provost, executive vice president and the health services executive director, Bacow said students are being required to get vaccinated against the virus in order to reach the high levels of vaccination needed to protect the school community as Harvard hopes to be able to offer a less restricted, robust on-campus experience for all students this fall.
Faculty, staff, and researchers working on campus will not be required to get vaccinated, Bacow said, though they are expected to "make every effort" to get the shot. According to Bacow, further guidance regarding vaccination expectations for faculty, staff, and researchers is under consideration and will be provided in the near future.
University health services is receiving a supply of the Pfizer vaccine this week and will hold COVID vaccine clinics beginning on Friday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Murr Center. Appointments are open to all students, staff, faculty, researchers and HUHS patients.
While vaccine appointments have become more readily available as the supply of the vaccine has ramped up considerably in the two weeks since all adults in the United States became eligible to receive the COVID vaccine, Bacow said, any student who is unable to access an FDA- or WHO-approved vaccine before the fall will be offered vaccination upon campus arrival. These students may be subject to additional requirements, however, Bacow said, including more frequent testing until they are considered fully protected.
All students are asked to send a copy of their completed vaccination card to health services.
In his announcement, Harvard's president also noted there has been remarkably little transmission of the coronavirus on campus, and officials are proceeding with plans for a full return to campus in the fall semester. Plans to ease occupancy and other restrictions, however, will depend on low infections rates in the school community and across the region.
To that end, continued regular coronavirus testing will be a key feature to monitor the status and impact of the virus on camps going forward, Bacow said. Updates regarding testing requirements, frequent and other specific guidelines will be forthcoming.