Rutgers University is requiring all students to get the COVID-19 vaccine if they want to return to campus in the fall 2021 semester.
“We are committed to health and safety for all members of our community, and adding COVID-19 vaccination to our student immunization requirements will help provide a safer and more robust college experience for our students,” Rutgers President Jonathan Holloway said in the March 25 statement.
Students can request a medical or religious exemption, while those enrolled in online-only classes or remote-degree programs do not have to get the vaccine, Rutgers said.
Faculty and staff are not required but still “strongly urged” to get the vaccine as supply opens up, said Rutgers Chief Operating Officer Antonio Calcado.
University officials cited the Biden administration’s assurances that the federal government would have enough vaccine doses for every American adult by May.
Biden added that the nation could see a large enough return to pre-pandemic normalcy by the July 4 weekend. The state’s self-imposed goal calls for fully vaccinating 4.7 million New Jersey adults by June.
New Jersey health officials said the state is getting over 10,000 doses of the J&J vaccine, and another 51,700 doses next week.
“It isn’t quite the quantum leap that we had anticipated, but it is certainly going in the right direction,” Gov. Phil Murphy said at a daily COVID-19 press briefing on March 24.
The vaccines are a vital component of permanently rolling back restrictions on businesses, travel and public gatherings, which have been in place this past year to keep the spread of the virus at bay.
And they’re seen as the best defense – other than social distancing and masks – to halt the spread of a highly contagious COVID-19 variant first detected in the United Kingdom.
J&J’s vaccine only requires a single dose, unlike the two-dose regimen spaced roughly a month apart for the versions made by drugmakers Pfizer and Moderna. And while the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines require storage in Arctic-level temperatures, J&J is shelf-stable at refrigeration temperatures, making their transportation and handling far easier.
Vaccine requirements for obtaining access to certain activities have become a legal and ethically thorny issue.
Business owners are grappling with whether they can require, or at least incentive their employees to get inoculated against COVID-19.
And Murphy indicated over the past week that he’s open to the concept of so-called “vaccine passports” that could be an integral part of post-pandemic life for the near future.
“Don’t get rid of the card, that’s likely to be something valuable… Laminate it and put it in your wallet,” the governor said last week. “There are lots of different potential uses for that, whether it’s going to a sporting event, getting on a plane.”