RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) – In their latest effort to combat COVID-19 on campus, Virginia Commonwealth University has implemented a mandatory vaccination requirement for the Fall 2021 semester.
The new policy was sent to students and staff on June 7 in an email newsletter reading: “For the fall semester: Vaccination will be required for all students who live, learn, work or will be on campus for any reason (excluding those with religious or health exemptions) . . . Students attending fall classes must report their vaccination to University Student Health Services no later than July 15 . . . Students who receive a two-dose vaccination must report completion of both doses.”
While the new mandate affects both staff and students, the communication regarding the policy primarily addresses student life on campus.
Vaccinated individuals will be exempt from wearing masks, social distancing and other COVID safety procedures in school facilities. However, dorm residents will still be required to wear a mask in student housing common areas as an extra precaution. The university wrote that COVID safety signage posted around campus will be updated to reflect the new policy.
Associate Chair of VCU Political Science Dr. Alexandra Reckendorf told 8News that she thinks VCU made the correct ethical consideration for the community and that the policy helps break a collective action issue.
“I think students are worried about things due to the framing and the rhetoric of our politicians and our media sending bad signals,” she said. “To break that, you have to either get students who are going to do deep reads of the news and tell a good source from a bad source, which is really hard to do for all of us. Or you have to essentially just say, ‘Hey, if you want to be on campus, you’re gonna have to get that vaccine.’ And that’s easier. It’s more efficient, it’s quicker.”
Students who have only received one vaccine dose by July 15, must report the date of appointment for their second dose. Students are then responsible for uploading documentation showing both doses.
The university said there is a one-month grace period for students who need to get their second dose. However, if by August 16 a student is not fully vaccinated, then VCU will place a hold on their account. If a hold is in place, a student will not be able to adjust their class schedule or register for classes.
While students wait to be fully vaccinated they will be required to maintain COVID safety precautions while on campus, including wearing a mask, distancing and an online daily health check-in to be granted admittance into VCU facilities.
VCUarts Photography student Mythryl Thomas told 8News that she thinks VCU has done well with COVID precautions and supports this move. She urges her peers to get vaccinated as well.
“I think it’s good, especially if there are fewer exemptions and actual enforcement,” said Thomas. “Even if you aren’t worried about it personally, you don’t know who’s going to be in a classroom with you . . . Not doing it is selfish, in my personal opinion.”
University administration told 8News as of July 6, one-third of VCU students have submitted vaccination records to VCU Student Health. Two-thirds have yet to submit or have not been vaccinated, and about 100 students have received exemption status.
As for faculty, half have verified their vaccination, while half have not been verified or are not vaccinated.
For information on how to submit your COVID-19 vaccination record to VCU, visit www.health.students.vcu.edu/immunizations/submitting-immunization-records.
To find out where you can get your COVID-19 vaccine, visit www.vaccinate.virginia.gov.