The University of Connecticut
Students at UConn must be vaccinated The spire of the Wilbur Cross building at UConn rises above the campus in this July, 2019 photograph. G.J. McCarthy / UConn Foundation

UConn’s governing board decided Friday that students must be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 before heading back to campus in the fall.

“This board, and the leadership of the university, take the health and safety of our community, including our student population, very, very seriously,” said Dan Toscano, chairman of the Board of Trustees. “And to that end, we felt it was important to consider whether or not COVID-19 vaccinations should not just be recommended, as they have been, but required in order to reduce the risk of transmission among students.”

UConn Interim President Dr. Andrew Agwunobi, who presented and introduced the policy, said one of the reasons university leadership advocated a mandatory mask policy is because of uncertainty regarding a possible COVID-19 surge in the fall “either due to weather, or due to loosening restrictions, or both.”

“We obviously hope that won’t occur,” Agwunobi said. “But if it does occur, it will be a wonderful thing that the majority of our students will be vaccinated by that time.”

Students who are not fully vaccinated when they return to school in the fall will have the opportunity to be vaccinated on campus, but they still have to undergo a modified quarantine and other preventative measures that could include participation in surveillance testing, housing restrictions and mask requirements.

Students can request vaccine exemptions, which the university will review and permit on a “cases-by-case basis.” If a student does receive an exemption, they will also have to comply with the preventative measures the university has in place for students who are not vaccinated prior to their return to campus.

When asked during Friday’s meeting how this will apply to international students who are coming from countries with different, or limited access to the vaccine, Eleanor Daugherty, dean of student affairs, said any vaccine authorized by the World Health Organization, or WHO, will meet the university’s requirement.

She added that any student who arrives from a country where there is no WHO authorized vaccine available will be able to get vaccinated on campus when they arrive.

“We’ll be ready with vaccines for those populations if they’re unable to access either an FDA authorized vaccine or a vaccine authorized by the World Health Organization,” Daugherty said. “In the meantime, the health of those students is always our collective priority. So whatever a medical provider is advising in consultation with the student as their patient abroad, or as an effective means to prevent exposure to COVID, I really want those students to continue to work closely with their medical advisors at home.”

Students attending Storrs or any of the regional campuses will need to upload proof of their vaccination to Student Health and Wellness, or SHaW, by July 31, while exemption requests are due by July 15. As of Wednesday, 60.7% of the residential students at the Storrs campus have reported being partially or fully vaccinated.

Agwunobi and Toscano said the university is still discussing whether the requirement will be extended to faculty members.

UConn joins several of the state’s private colleges, including Yale, Wesleyan, Quinnipiac, Trinity and Connecticut College, in making students vaccinations mandatory in the fall. The Connecticut State Colleges and Universities system has not made a decision about mandatory vaccines but Leigh Appleby, a CSCU spokesperson, said it’s being considered.

“CSCU is strongly considering a vaccine requirement and is undertaking a review, with input from faculty, staff and students, to examine the most effective ways to ensure all members of our communities are vaccinated against COVID -19 before stepping on campus for the fall semester.”

Adria was CT Mirror's Education and Community Reporter. She grew up in Oakland, graduated from Sacramento State where she was co-news editor of the student newspaper, and worked as a part-time reporter at CalMatters. Most recently Adria interned at The Marshall Project, a national nonprofit news organization that reports on criminal justice issues. Adria was one of CT Mirror’s Report For America Corps Members.