As more schools try to return to some sense of normalcy, Northeastern University in Boston on Tuesday joined a growing list of colleges and universities that will require students to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 to return to campus in the fall.
Northeastern is the first Massachusetts college to announce that it will require students to get vaccinated. Only a handful of colleges across the country have taken that step, including Rutgers University and Rhode Island's Roger Williams University.
"We have to believe in the science and not be led by misinformation, so I'm really happy that Northeastern's taking the lead," Northeastern public health professor Deborah Milbauer said, speaking on behalf of herself.
The announcement comes as Northeastern continues to plan for a return to full-time, in-person learning in September.
“What we’ve learned over the pandemic period is the power of human interaction and the power of teaching and learning in the classroom, is something we want to enhance and build upon moving forward,” said Ken Henderson, chancellor and senior vice president for learning at Northeastern, in a statement. “We expect to be back fully in-person at regular occupancy, including fully in-person teaching, and normal occupancy in residence halls and dining facilities.”
The school will allow for medical or religious exemptions and promised to help international students or others who cannot get vaccinated before arriving on campus in the fall to get a shot.
Herd immunity is critical to reopening campus fully, the university said.
“In order to get herd immunity, we need to get a maximum number of people possible vaccinated,” Henderson said. “If all, or nearly all of our students are vaccinated, we expect that we’ll be able to achieve herd immunity.”
Northeastern will require proof of inoculation with vaccines that are approved in the country where the campus the student is attending is located. The school said the method by which students can show proof will be announced in the coming days.
Many students were supportive of the move.
"If everybody's getting vaccinated, it makes me feel safer on the whole yeah," said grad student Sanjan Vijayakumal.
First year bio premed student Antonin Cornillon said, "I think it's fair, I think it's really reasonable, I hope that that'll give us a step like back to normal."
Prospective students and their parents say it helps give them peace of mind.
"If they're requiring all their students to have other vaccines for other viruses, it makes sense they could require this one. I'm not sure exactly what's different, but in the end I guess it's up to the students," said Jake Klompus, a prospective student from San Francisco.
Klompus' mom, Cristina Farronato, said, "It would definitely make me feel safer to know that he will be inside the classroom and the other kids are vaccinated."
But not everyone is thrilled with the requirement.
"I know a few people who just don't want to get the COVID vaccine, for whatever reason, so that'll be interesting seeing how it plays out," first year student Sarah Zhang said.
Undergrad Morgan Williams said, "I don't love it, but it makes sense, like I mean it's the safest way so if I can go back to the classroom, it's a lot easier for me to learn that way."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.