Credit: Julie Leopo/EdSource
Cal State LA in 2019.

In a move that would impact more than 1 million individuals across 33 campuses, the California State University and University of California systems intend to require students, faculty and staff who will be on campuses this fall to receive a Covid-19 vaccination.

“This is the most comprehensive and consequential university plan for COVID-19 vaccines in the country,” CSU Chancellor Joseph Castro said in a statement announcing the plans.

The requirements are contingent on the Food and Drug Administration giving full approval to at least one of the existing vaccines, and it’s not yet clear when that will happen. The FDA so far has authorized emergency use for the Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines. Distribution of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is currently on hold as federal agencies study rare cases of blood clots in women who received the vaccine.

There is “no guarantee” that full approval of a vaccine will happen before the fall, but the CSU chancellor’s office chose to announce its intentions now “based on potential for an approval sometime between now and the beginning of the fall term,” Mike Uhlenkamp, a spokesman for the chancellor’s office, told EdSource.

If no vaccine is approved before the fall, that would delay the implementation of the vaccine requirements at UC and CSU campuses. The systems also plan to engage with students, faculty and staff before formalizing the requirement. Students and staff across the systems would be able to seek an exemption from the vaccine for medical or religious reasons, as they can with other vaccines that are currently required.

The state’s other public college segment, the system of community colleges, is not currently planning to have a system-wide requirement for students and staff to get vaccinated. Instead, the state chancellor’s office is leaving it up to 73 local districts, which oversee 115 colleges, to decide whether to require vaccinations. The 116th college, Calbright College, is online only.

The community colleges enroll about 2 million students, the most of any college system in the country.

“I fully expect districts will do whatever they can to ensure the safety of everyone returning to our campuses, and everyone should make a plan now to get vaccinated if they haven’t already,” Eloy Ortiz Oakley, the statewide chancellor of the community colleges, said in a statement Thursday.

Administrators across California’s public colleges and universities have said that the ability to repopulate campuses and resume more in-person classes this fall hinges on the distribution of Covid-19 vaccines to staff and students. The extent to which campuses will welcome back students, faculty and staff will likely vary from campus to campus.

“Receiving a vaccine for the virus that causes COVID-19 is 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,” UC President Michael Drake said.

California’s public universities are now among dozens of colleges and universities across the country planning to require Covid-19 vaccinations this fall. Some other universities are only planning to require students to get vaccinated, but not staff. Stanford University, a private college in Santa Clara County, on Thursday became the latest to announce it will require that students be vaccinated. Stanford has not made a similar mandate of faculty and staff.

Thursday’s joint announcement by UC and CSU leadership was welcomed by the UC Student Association, said Aidan Arasasingham, the group’s president and a student at UCLA. Arasasingham said the student group has pushed for such a requirement.

“Should these vaccines receive full use authorization over the summer, then it makes perfect sense why we should have a vaccine mandate for the fall to ensure that we’re able to have the kind of health and immunity needed to have the in-person experience that students are looking forward to,” he said.

The system-wide organization representing CSU students, the Cal State Student Association, has not yet taken an official stance on whether a Covid-19 vaccine should be required of students, said Zahraa Khuraibet, association president. She said the group will vote on whether to support a requirement in early May.

Khuraibet said the association has been “really pushing our students to take the vaccine if it is available for them.”

It’s not yet clear whether faculty members across the CSU and UC campuses will support the requirement.

Charles Toombs, the president of the California Faculty Association, the union representing faculty across the CSU campuses, said he and other union leaders will need to get feedback from members and negotiate the matter with the CSU chancellor’s office.

“This is a change to our working conditions, so we’ll need to get input from our members on what a required vaccination would mean to them,” Toombs said.

“Our position has always been that we want the vaccines accessible and available, and we hope as many people will get it as possible, but some people may not for either medical or religious reasons, or there could be other grounds that we are not aware of yet,” he said.

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  1. Lisa Smith 1 day ago1 day ago

    I just called Chico State and the lady I spoke with said they are getting around 50 calls a day from parents not in favor of this push. There will be a major backlash if this is forced and in a big way if this causes major side effects. Also the lady from Chico State said many teachers and faculty will walk off the job if forced. She went on to tell me … Read More

    I just called Chico State and the lady I spoke with said they are getting around 50 calls a day from parents not in favor of this push. There will be a major backlash if this is forced and in a big way if this causes major side effects.

    Also the lady from Chico State said many teachers and faculty will walk off the job if forced. She went on to tell me that a friend of hers died 30 minutes after receiving the vaccine. An autopsy is being performed to determine the cause.

    No I am not anti-vaccine but this is all too soon to be forced upon the public let alone young adults. And no I am not being selfish for my views (nice try) if someone is at high risk then you get the vaccine you don’t have to worry. Why are there isles of junk food known to cause obesity and diabetes and promoted in commercials? If our government was really concerned with saving lives, don’t you think they would start with getting rid of all the overly processed crap food in our grocery stores?

  2. warren Stean roberts 1 week ago1 week ago

    As a 20 year + faculty I entirely support the requirement of vaccinations in our campuses for students, faculty and staff. Hey, if we are required to have TB tests which at times require X-ray to be in a classroom then what’s the problem with having a Covid vaccine requirement? Virtual courses are perhaps the option for students not making the sensible choice. Yes, part of education including life long skills is learning about sensible decisions.

  3. Laura Parsons 2 weeks ago2 weeks ago

    I am disturbed that any college would require vaccines! These are adults who can make these decisions for themselves. If the majority are vaccinated why are you worried about the percentage who live in a free country and choose not to vaccinate. You are are going to rob them of the education they have worked hard to get.

    Replies

    • el 2 weeks ago2 weeks ago

      You have always had to show proof of standard vaccinations to enroll at CSU or UC.

      • Amor Fati 1 week ago1 week ago

        Is that true? I know Executive Order 803 required them in 2002; were they required prior to that? I don’t remember having a vaccination requirement while attending in the ’90s.

      • Tisha 1 week ago1 week ago

        No true, I was not required when I attended and graduated from CSULB 2016

    • warren roberts 1 week ago1 week ago

      True, make decisions for themselves .. not for others. Hence, those vaccinated can sit in the classroom together with others.

  4. Laura Massie 2 weeks ago2 weeks ago

    UC President Michael Drake refers to “Receiving a vaccine for the virus that causes COVID-19” being 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,” However, none of the vaccines authorized for emergency use are designed to protect against infection or transmission of the sarsCOV2 virus itself, they are only effective at reducing the symptoms of the Disease Covid … Read More

    UC President Michael Drake refers to “Receiving a vaccine for the virus that causes COVID-19” being 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,” However, none of the vaccines authorized for emergency use are designed to protect against infection or transmission of the sarsCOV2 virus itself, they are only effective at reducing the symptoms of the Disease Covid 19 if you get infected with the virus!

    Stop spreading misinformation! Even the academic world totally lacks the ability to understand how all these vaccines work. Making a policy requiring vaccination for an experimental product for the whole UC system based on a false understanding of how the vaccines work is ridiculous! This is why one still has to mask & social distance even after being vaccinated. They do not stop infection or transmission. They were not even designed to do that!

  5. Paul Muench 2 weeks ago2 weeks ago

    I whole heartedly agree that students should vaccinate against Covid-19. The universities should encourage this by offering free insurance, so that any student that has an adverse reaction can recoup tuition, fees, and housing costs. T

    he risk of a bad reaction is so low it sure seems the community can bear this relatively small cost that could be devastating if only a few individuals have to bear it. I’d say that matches the community-minded spirit of this effort.

  6. Fred Jones 2 weeks ago2 weeks ago

    Do these public school systems have the statutory authority to mandate this?