As access to the coronavirus vaccine increases nationwide, colleges and universities have grappled with whether they should mandate students be fully vaccinated before they return to campus. A group of HBCUs in Atlanta announced on Monday that all students who intend to return to on-campus learning must be fully vaccinated.
AJC reports that The Atlanta University Center—which consists of Clark Atlanta University, Morehouse College, Morehouse School of Medicine, and Spelman College—issued a joint statement requiring all students, staff, and faculty to be fully vaccinated if they intend to return to on-campus learning for the next semester.
“Using the latest scientific data to implement vaccination protocols is the next step in keeping our community safe,” the joint statement read. “Vaccination of our community members is critical to continue meeting our highest priority—maintaining the safety and wellbeing of our constituents.”
The statement added that the AUC considers someone “fully vaccinated” if at least two weeks has passed since a person received their second dose of a two-dose vaccine, or the only shot of a single-dose vaccine. Since the schools are all privately funded, they didn’t need the input of state officials to make the decision. Beverly James, spokesperson for the AUC, told AJC that exceptions would be made for people with religious or medical exemptions.
The AUC schools held online-only classes during the fall semester, citing concerns about the spread of COVID-19 on their campuses. They allowed a limited number of students back on campus for the spring semester. The COVID-19 positivity test rate at the center has been less than 1%, according to its website.
Several colleges nationwide in recent weeks have announced plans to require students to get vaccinated to be on campus for the fall semester.
Employers have struggled over whether to mandate vaccinations. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission released guidance in December that employers can require vaccinations, but they must provide reasonable accommodations for those who can not be inoculated for “sincerely held” religious beliefs or medical reasons.
The announcement by the AUC came shortly after Emory University, the largest private college in Georgia, made a similar announcement on Monday mandating that students must be fully vaccinated upon returning to campus. Unlike the AUC, Emory has said it will not require faculty or staff to be vaccinated, though they strongly recommend it.