Universities Get Tough with COVID Vaccinations

Chriss Swaney

Pittsburgh, PA (WorkersCompensation.com) — Nearly 350 universities and colleges nationwide have mandated that students, faculty and staff must be vaccinated to prevent spread of the COVID virus before school begins in the fall.

But not all academic communities are ready to comply. Students at Indiana University are suing the school for requiring students to get the COVID-19 vaccine. The eight students who filed the federal lawsuit allege the university’s mandate violates their constitutional rights as well as the state’s law.

At Duquesne University, some staff are grumbling about the strictness of the university’s latest COVID policy. Officials at the Pittsburgh-based Catholic institution have said that “employees who do not get vaccinated will be subject to ongoing requirements, and all associated costs arising out of or relating to COVID-19 exposure or infection, such as for testing, quarantine and medical treatment, will be the employee’s sole responsibility, unless such costs are part of a disability accommodation.”

“I’m not sure how that mandate at Duquesne would work because an institution can’t tell an insurer what to do,” said Victor Pribanic, a managing partner at Pribanic & Pribanic. “We will probably see more legal battles down the road over pandemic prevention methods,” he added.

Carnegie Mellon University announced earlier this summer that it would require students to get a vaccine before returning to campus.

But Robert Strauss, a professor of economics and public policy at Carnegie Mellon University’s Heinz College, said it’s still unclear how vaccines developed in foreign countries that are not approved by the CDC will be accepted in the U.S. “And the new variant is also a big question when it comes to what the current vaccines protect people from, ‘’ he added.

So far, 15 states – Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Montana, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Utah and Wyoming – have signed legislation barring COVID-19 vaccination proof. Indiana’s attorney general reports that state universities may require COVID-19 vaccinations but can’t force students to provide proof.

All states require colleges to accommodate students who refuse a vaccine for medical reasons. Most states – save for California, Maine, Mississippi, New York, West Virginia and now Connecticut – also allow for religious reasons.

While exemptions can be easy to come by, some schools may choose to keep unvaccinated students off campus. At Brown University, for example, students who refuse COVID-19 vaccinations must file a petition to study remotely or take a leave of absence in the fall.

More than 33 million coronavirus cases have been confirmed in the United States, and to date, there have been 600,000 deaths from COVID-19. To complicate vaccination efforts, the highly transmissible delta variant of the coronavirus now makes up the majority of COVID-19 cases in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). The latest CDC estimate shows the delta variant accounted for 51.7 percent of cases during the two weeks ending July 3.

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