Students on the UC Berkeley campus on March 4, 2020 in Berkeley, California.
Gabrielle Lurie | San Francisco Chronicle | Hearst Newspapers via Getty Images
California State University and the University of California announced Thursday they will require all students, staff and faculty who plan to be on campus to be vaccinated against Covid.
The two California university systems are the largest among dozens of higher education institutions that will require vaccinations for the fall semester, with more than 1 million students and staff affected by the decision. Students and staff will be able to request exemptions based on medical or religious reasons as they would with other mandatory vaccines.
“Together, the CSU and UC enroll and employ more than 1 million students and employees across 33 major university campuses, so this is the most comprehensive and consequential university plan for COVID-19 vaccines in the country,” said Cal State Chancellor Joseph I. Castro.
The universities hesitated to make the decision previously because of legal questions around requiring vaccines that have not been fully approved by the Food and Drug Administration. The Pfizer–BioNTech and Moderna vaccines are being distributed under emergency-use authorization, but the companies expect FDA approval by the fall.
Both universities are planning to operate mostly in-person for the semester.
Vaccines are a “key step people can take to protect themselves, their friends and family, and our campus communities while helping bring the pandemic to an end,” said UC President Michael V. Drake, a physician.
Some health experts believe that requiring vaccinations for college and universities will help stop the spread of Covid among young people, who have been increasingly at risk for severe illness from variants that are rapidly mutating and spreading.
California recorded almost 2,000 new cases of Covid-19 on Wednesday and a “double mutant” Covid variant was recently detected in the state. The state has plans to reopen businesses by June 15 while keeping a mask mandate in place. Almost half of adults in the state have received at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine.