LIHUE — The University of Hawai‘i System is adding the COVID-19 vaccination to its student health clearance requirements beginning in the upcoming fall semester.
The UH system is the first school in the state to announce such a rule on Monday. Kaua‘i Community College’s Chancellor supports UH’s president’s decision.
“I think it’s a very good move, it will allow us to return to more of our face-to-face teaching than we’ve probably experienced in the last 14 months,” KCC Chancellor Joseph Daisy said. “And then I think in a couple of other areas, they are still either informal discussion with our unions, particularly around employee vaccinations. And then obviously, there are questions around what would be our position or our process for visitors.”
Daisy said students who do want to return to campus face-to-face will have the opportunity to be fully vaccinated before classes begin. And students who don’t want to be vaccinated can still enroll and take classes online.
“We’re very flexible to ensure that our students could continue their course of study,” Daisy said. “We were also able to keep our offices for service to students open and staffed through the worst of the pandemic. And the staff made sure that they would respond to student requests, whether it was via email, or whether it was, face-to-face or whether it was by phone.”
Daisy said he thinks the KCC ‘ohana has done a great job caring, working and supporting one another.
“I think we’re all looking forward to the positive impact that being vaccinated will have on our community and our campus,” Daisy said. “Just so happy that we’re at this point with as much progress as we have made and continuing to move in the right direction.”
To be on any UH campus, students must be fully vaccinated against COVID-19, according to Monday’s announcement.
As with existing health clearance requirements, students will be able to request exemptions for medical and religious reasons. More detailed information will be made available in the coming months as implementation plans are finalized.
“It is clear that a vaccinated campus is a safer campus for everyone, and a fully vaccinated student community enables the best opportunity for a healthy return to high-quality face-to-face teaching, learning and research,” said UH President David Lassner. “This decision does not come lightly, and is based on guidance from our own Health and Well-Being Working Group as well as the American College Health Association’s recommendation that all on-campus college students be required to be vaccinated.”
The vaccine requirement will take effect only after at least one of the three COVID-19 vaccines currently under emergency use authorization has been approved and fully licensed by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, which is anticipated this summer.
UH health clearance requirements for students currently include a tuberculosis clearance and immunizations for Measles Mumps, Rubella, and Tetanus-diphtheria-pertussis and Varicella. Meningococcal Conjugate vaccinations are also required for first-year students living in on-campus housing.
All UH students and employees can sign up now to be vaccinated, and UH urges all members of the UH community to be vaccinated now. The university will also ensure there are vaccination opportunities over the summer and at the beginning of fall for members of the UH community who arrive from other locations where they may not have been able to be vaccinated.
In a press conference, held on Monday, Lassner said right now there are 361 universities in the U.S. with a vaccination requirement for students that’s across the country. That’s a mix of public and private institutions.
“Less than half of those also have vaccination requirements for employees,” Lassner said. “But many do and most notably, the University of California system and the Cal State University system announced that their vaccination requirements would apply to both students and employees.”
Hawai‘i Department of Health Director Libby Char says UH’s decision to add the COVID-19 vaccine is an important development for the university and the state.
“We are hopeful that with the new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines and this vaccination requirement in place for students, that by fall we will be able to return to mask-free classrooms without physical distancing requirements,” said Char.
The university will also be initiating formal discussions with the three unions that represent UH employees about possibly requiring COVID-19 vaccination.
Stephanie Shinno, education and business reporter, can be reached at 245-0424 or email@example.com.