Citing high vaccination rates among students and employees across its 10-campus system, the University of Hawaii will not enforce a vaccine mandate for students attending class in the fall.
UH announced in May that students must be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 in order to return to campuses in the fall. However, the university said 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 has not yet occurred.
The university said Thursday that surveys administered in June found that more than 92% students and 95% of employee have been vaccinated against the COVID-19 virus or plan to be.
The surveys administered by the UH Vaccination Team found that about 7% of students and 4% of employees still have no plans to receive a COVID-19 vaccine, with some expressing concern over the lack of full U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval of any COVID-19 vaccine.
Heartened by the high rate of vaccination among students and employees, UH, however, said it is confident that under new guidelines being finalized, its campuses will be safe even without fully enforcing the mandate when the fall semester begins.
The inclusion of COVID-19 vaccination in UH health clearance requirements for students will remain in place with enforcement limited to student housing residents and other specific activities, events and facilities to be determined.
Enforcement of the vaccination requirement to attend in-person classes will take place only after a vaccine is fully approved by the FDA, so will begin no sooner than the spring 2022 semester.
“The single most important thing our students and employees can do to protect the health and wellbeing of themselves, their families and our campus communities is to be fully vaccinated for the upcoming fall semester,” UH President David Lassner said in a news release. “One-hundred-fifty-nine million Americans have safely received the vaccine and we are now seeing a growing number of preventable COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths among the unvaccinated. We are leaving the requirement in place, even if not fully enforced, to make the message clear.”
The COVID-19 vaccine requirement will be enforced this fall for students who live in on-campus housing at UH-Manoa and UH-Hilo because of the close communal contact.
Health and religious exemptions will be available for student residents.
Other limitations may apply to the unvaccinated, but they will not be prevented from enrolling in on-campus classes.
New safety guidelines will be released outlining practices to protect all students and employees.
Face coverings will be required while indoors on campus and all students, employees and visitors will still be required to utilize the LumiSight UH health check app, which now includes the ability to easily demonstrate vaccination status.