Questions arise about legality of forcing students to get COVID-19 vaccine

US colleges divided over requiring student vaccinations

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DAVIE, Fla. – U.S. colleges hoping for a return to normalcy next fall are weighing how far they should go in urging students to get the COVID-19 vaccine, including whether they should — or legally can — require it.

Some have already said students will have to get shots before returning to campus, including at Rutgers, Brown, Cornell and Northeastern.

Nova Southeastern University in South Florida has also announced that students must be inoculated by Aug. 1.

They say they will help protect their campuses and give students the confidence to return.

But some schools say they cannot legally require vaccinations because the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has only allowed the emergency use of COVID-19 vaccines and hasn’t given them its full approval.

“We took a bold step in saying that we will ask people, require, to be enrolled at NSU to be vaccinated,” Dr. Harry Moon, EVP and COO of NSU, said during a news conference earlier this month. “This is for faculty, staff, students and we believe this is the best, safest path forward.”

Other colleges are opting to recommend shots without requiring them.

Gov. Ron DeSantis pushed back on NSU’s “bold” move and said he will not have COVID vaccines mandated in Florida.

“It’s completely unacceptable for either the government or the private sector to impose upon you the requirement that you show proof of vaccine to just simply be able to participate in normal society,” DeSantis said.

NSU released the following statement after DeSantis signed his latest executive order: “We will continue to follow all state and federal laws as they evolve. We will evaluate how we can best protect our community and follow the governor’s executive order.”

NSU has 6,314 undergraduate students and 14,574 advanced degree students.

Moon said the decision came after months of work and planning, and that the data shows if they want to reopen classrooms, this is the way forward.


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