Colleges Vaccination Sites

Updated April 12, 2023

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Vaccinations on College Campuses

COVID-19 vaccine access continues to expand to primary care physicians' offices, local pharmacies, and college campuses. Vaccine availability had initially been very limited. College vaccination for students may mean access to on-campus learning and housing, along with social and community activities, like sports.

Affordable Colleges Online interviewed Dr. Terrell Strayhorn to get his perspective as schools begin setting pandemic-era policies ahead of students' return to campus this fall. As part of the school's nine-person executive leadership council, he holds one of the university's top leadership positions. In 2019, the historically Black college Virginia Union University in Richmond, Virginia, had about 1,200 students.

Portrait of Dr. Terrell Strayhorn

Dr. Terrell Strayhorn

Dr. Terrell Strayhorn is provost and senior vice president of academic affairs at Virginia Union University, where he also serves as professor of urban education and director of the Center for the Study of HBCUs. He is an internationally recognized authority on racial equity, student success, and belonging.

Q. How closely will Virginia Union's upcoming on-campus semester resemble the pre-pandemic normal?

Strayhorn: I think this upcoming on-campus semester will more closely resemble the pre-pandemic normal in terms of repopulating campus with more residential students, on-campus activities, and large group gatherings. For instance, we're busily preparing for fall move-in, welcome week, and homecoming, which are all planned to be in-person events this year. Our students and alumni are ready for the ReUnion at Virginia Union!

As with all pandemic-related issues, the situation is continually evolving. Check with your university, and local and state governments, for the latest guidance on vaccinations for college students. In the meantime, read below for firsthand insight and examples of how colleges choose to manage vaccination-related issues.

Benefits of COVID-19 Vaccination

Vaccination is a safe, effective way to protect yourself and other people from potentially life-threatening complications of COVID-19. In addition, vaccination, along with continued mask wearing and social distancing, will help end the coronavirus pandemic. The three vaccines approved for use in the U.S. — Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson — do not contain the live virus. Therefore, they will not make you sick with COVID.

Through voluntary or mandated campus vaccination initiatives, fully vaccinated people can resume activities without masks or social distancing. For college students, this means they can attend in-person classes and events. They can also attend sporting events and concerts and visit with friends in person.

In the U.S., mask wearing, social distancing, and public gathering rules now vary by location. Also keep in mind that universities and private businesses may implement pandemic-related restrictions that differ from the minimum requirements, regardless of vaccination status.

Q. Do you plan to continue mask mandates and social distancing measures despite the recent changes in CDC guidance?

Strayhorn: While everyone working, teaching, learning, and living on campus will be vaccinated in the fall 2021 semester, we will continue to encourage face coverings, personal hygiene (e.g. handwashing), and entry access screenings and temperature checks to ensure community safety and well-being.

One dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine provides protection. Partial vaccination was 80% effective in preventing infections, according to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) study. However, two weeks after receiving the second shot, vaccine effectiveness rose to 90%. You must receive both doses of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine to be considered fully vaccinated.

College Vaccination Requirements

Hundreds of public and private universities have implemented vaccination requirements. The decisions made by higher education leaders at public and private colleges affect millions of students. Health-related decisions by local and state political leaders also matter in higher education too.

As a result, a patchwork of rules and policies exist regarding COVID vaccinations for college students. Policies vary by state and even within states. For example, in Texas, private universities can require vaccinations for college students. But public universities cannot require them. Schools in 15 states do not require vaccinations. Recently passed legislation in some states prohibits vaccine passports.

Q. Will vaccinations be required on campus? Do you have the authority to mandate vaccinations?

Strayhorn: Yes, vaccinations are required for all members of our campus community who will work, study, or live on campus. Yes, mandating vaccinations is well within authority and in keeping with our local and state public health guidance.

Q. What are Virginia Union's vaccination requirements for the upcoming fall semester?

Strayhorn: In terms of the fall, the university is requiring vaccination (or proof of prior vaccination) for all on-campus faculty, staff, and students, including those living in our campus residence halls or coming to campus for internships, research, or practica. Unvaccinated students can take courses this fall using online, virtual-based learning options.

Some of the college COVID vaccination requirements apply if students wish to study and live on campus. Students may also avoid vaccination by claiming religious or medical exemptions. Meanwhile, some schools have yet to decide on vaccine requirements. As a result, many with a stake in the issue say they feel confused or frustrated.

Where Can I Get Vaccinated on Campus?

In March, an American College Health Association (ACHA) survey of 367 colleges found that 45.5% of schools planned to host on-campus college vaccination sites. Forty six of those schools said they planned to expand vaccine access to the general public.

Texas A&M University — San Antonio also hosted vaccine clinics. With facilities, excellent community access, and healthcare program students available for staffing support, universities make good vaccination sites, according to an ACHA COVID-19 task force member.

Princeton began hosting scheduled vaccination sites in May. The clinics will continue for several weeks. Anyone "12 or older who lives, works, or studies in New Jersey," may receive a vaccine at the Princeton clinic.

In the same announcement, Princeton also said all students enrolled or present on campus during the 2021-2022 academic year must receive or provide proof of having received a COVID-19 vaccine. Princeton's approach aligns with ACHA guidance; the association recommends requiring vaccinations for all students who participate in on-campus classes, live on campus, or engage in on-campus studies or activities.

Q. Will vaccinations be available on campus?

Strayhorn: Yes, COVID-19 vaccinations are available on our campus, and we are currently running a COVID vaccination clinic, offering Pfizer shots upon appointment.

College Vaccination Questions

Q. Which vaccine should college students get?

Health experts recommend choosing the first vaccine available to you, regardless of type. Multiple experts, including the CDC, classify the Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson vaccines as safe and effective.

Q. Are college vaccinations mandatory?

It depends. Some colleges, both public and private, plan to require vaccinations as a condition of in-person enrollment or on-campus residence. Other schools will not make vaccines mandatory. And in some instances, state legislatures are seeking to block college vaccination mandates.

Q. Will I be able to get a college vaccination waiver for COVID?

All 50 states offer some form of vaccination exemptions. The available exemptions include medical, religious, or philosophical reasons.

Q. Where can I get the COVID vaccine?, a CDC website, allows you to search for vaccination sites nationwide by zip code. The website also allows you to search by vaccine type. However, if an appointment is required, you must schedule it directly with the provider.

Portrait of Nate Delesline III

Nate Delesline III

Nate Delesline III is a Virginia-based writer covering higher education. He has more than a decade of experience as a newspaper journalist covering public safety, local government, business, transportation, and K-12 and higher education.

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