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Fort Lewis College in Colorado Issues Vaccine Mandate for Students

Durango’s Fort Lewis College on Friday became one of the first schools in the nation to mandate COVID-19 vaccinations for returning students this fall. Other Colorado schools continue to weigh the idea.

Mandating vaccines in universities isn’t a foreign concept in Colorado. New college students have to provide proof of immunity to measles, mumps and rubella diseases. On top of those, students living in on-campus dorms have to get additional vaccines.

But, because the COVID-19 vaccines available to the public are only approved through the Food And Drug Administration’s Emergency Use Authorization list, Colorado’s higher education authority is hesitant on issuing a statewide student mandate.

“We serve at the pleasure of the governor,” said Colorado Department of Higher Education executive director Angie Paccione. “So if the governor decides that, yes, everybody gets a vaccine, then we would execute on his vision. However, from all that I’ve heard and what we’ve talked about, we don’t see that as being a mandate. It’s just really strongly encouraged.”

Pfizer vaccines are newly available to all Coloradans ages 16 and older. The Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines are only approved for those 18 and older. She stressed that returning to regular in-person classes and activities would depend on getting a vast majority of students and staff vaccinated.

Paccione also added that individual universities are free to implement vaccine requirements for their own students.

Several colleges, like the University of Colorado Boulder, University of Northern Colorado, and the 13 colleges in the Colorado Community College System, told CPR News there are no plans to require the COVID-19 vaccine. However, they still plan to encourage faculty, staff and students to obtain it when possible.

Fort Lewis College in Durango, which has just over 3,500 students enrolled, announced to staff and students Friday that it will require students to get vaccinated before returning to campus in the fall. It’s the first, and currently only, Colorado university to initiate a vaccine mandate.

“A broadly vaccinated student body provides the best hope for returning to the things that we love about Fort Lewis College,” president Tom Stritikus said. “We’ve tried to make it as normal as possible, but it has come with a cost. And that cost really is student connection and students really being able to make the kind of connections they can in a normal way.” Read Full Article >

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