Fort Lewis College is among the first colleges or universities in the nation to require students to have the COVID-19 vaccination for the fall semester, a move quickly followed by several other institutions of higher learning.
Since FLC’s requirement, announced in a campuswide letter from President Tom Stritikus on Friday, Cornell University, Nova Southeastern University and St. Edward’s University have all announced students must be fully vaccinated before returning to their campuses in fall.
Rutgers University was the first to require fall semester students receive the COVID-19 vaccination.
“A broadly vaccinated student body provides our best hope for returning to the hands-on, inclusive, experiential and personalized learning environment that we have all come to love,” Stritikus wrote in a letter to the FLC community. “As such, all students enrolling at FLC for the fall 2021 semester will be required to get a COVID-19 vaccine.”
The schools allow for limited exemptions for underlying medical conditions and religious beliefs.
At FLC, students can request an exemption from the vaccine requirement for a disability, medical condition, religious belief or other reason protected by law. The request for an exemption must be approved by the Student Health Center before a student arrives on campus for fall 2021 classes.
Vaccinations are strongly encouraged for FLC faculty and staff members but are not currently required.
Stritikus said student, faculty and staff leaders were consulted before going forward with the requirement.
“We certainly have had some students express concerns around maybe religious or medical issues, and we have an exemption policy for COVID that will follow our well-articulated exemption policy that we use for the MMR vaccine,” he said. “This is not the first vaccine that we’re requiring. We require the MMR vaccine, and the COVID vaccine fits under that.”
Stritikus said administrators are examining whether to require faculty and staff members to also receive the vaccination. But many have already received it, he said.
“We did a survey and of those who have responded over 85% were vaccinated,” he said.
In Colorado, as of April 2, anyone 16 and older is eligible to receive the Pfizer vaccine, and anyone 18 and older is eligible to receive the Moderna or the Johnson & Johnson vaccines.
FLC said it recommends students get a vaccine as soon as possible because it often takes time to schedule an appointment.
The school is committed to providing COVID-19 vaccinations to any student, faculty or staff member who has not been able to obtain a vaccine.
Before the fall semester, students are required to upload a copy of their COVID-19 vaccination card to FLC’s secure document upload portal or through the FLC App.
Students enrolled only in online courses and who are not accessing on-campus services will not need to provide proof of vaccination.
In his letter, Stritikus said: “COVID-19 has made it very clear just how impactful and necessary it is for us to have an educational experience in person, and vaccines are our way of ensuring that we can be together for a normal fall semester.
“Many of our students are already vaccinated,” he said. “We are an institution with a large population of Native students and other students of color, and we know COVID had a disproportionate impact on those communities – requiring the vaccine protects not only our campus, but the communities our students come from.”
[email protected]This story has been updated to indicate Fort Lewis College was among the first institution of higher learning to require students for fall semester be vaccinated for COVID-19, not the first.