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The University of Delaware campus is seen in this file photo

The University of Delaware will require all students to be vaccinated against COVID-19 by the fall, President Dennis Assanis announced Wednesday.

“Vaccines are key elements in our commitment to returning to a robust campus life in the fall and beyond,” Assanis wrote in a letter to students. “We all want to end the pandemic that has so disrupted all aspects of our lives as soon as possible.”

He noted that a team of UD experts has reviewed research and public health guidance to determine UD policies related to the pandemic.

“In short, we know from nationally reported data that vaccinations are successfully preventing COVID-19 infections, hospitalizations and deaths,” Assanis said. “For this reason, it is more critical than ever that our community works together to ensure that this progress does not stop.”

All students – undergraduate, graduate and professional – who will be on campus in the fall must submit proof to the university they are fully vaccinated by Aug. 15. However, UD will accommodate documented medical and religious exemptions.

UD has held vaccination clinics on campus and will continue to do so, with the goal of vaccinating most students before they leave campus for the summer. Assanis said an internal survey showed than 96 percent of students and employees have received a vaccine or plan to do so.

UD joins more than 100 colleges and universities across the United States that have said they will mandate the vaccine, according to the New York Times. Last week, the American College Health Association recommended colleges require vaccines for all on-campus students.

UD’s announcement came just three days after the student newspaper, The Review, wrote an editorial calling on the administration to implement a vaccine mandate.

“In short, the university should make the coronavirus vaccine mandatory for students — just as it has for measles, meningococcal meningitis and mumps. At the very least, it should require that all students taking in-person classes be vaccinated and continue to enforce frequent testing and mask-wearing for all students living on campus, along with random testing for off-campus students,” the newspaper wrote.

Vaccines are not yet mandatory for faculty and staff, though Assanis said that could change.

“If it was up to me entirely, I would have done it yesterday," Assanis said. "But we have a lot of unionized staff and we have to work with the unions to change their conditions of employment and their contracts. I do hope, whether we do a formal change or through voluntary action, that all of them, or the vast majority of them, will be."

Assanis has said previously he expects the fall semester to be “95 percent normal” with nearly all classes offered in-person and a more traditional campus experience for students.

Last fall, nearly all classes were online, with the only exceptions being certain labs and other courses requiring hands-on learning. This spring, the university expanded its on-campus offerings, with 18 percent of courses offering an in-person component and occupancy in the dorms at 60 percent.

The university had a scare in late February when COVID-19 cases spiked, prompting officials to warn of a possible campus lockdown, but the number of new cases quickly decreased.

All students living on campus are required to be tested weekly, and last week, UD reported just 16 COVID-19 cases, its lowest number since the campus reopened last fall. So far this week, the university has seen zero cases.

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