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UH COVID Vaccine Mandate Will Not be Enforced to Attend Classes in Fall

July 16, 2021, 2:04 PM HST
* Updated July 16, 4:04 PM
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COVID-19 vaccine mandates at the University of Hawaiʻi will not be enforced to attend class due to the high vaccination rate among students and employees across the 10-campus system.

On May 17, 2021, UH officials announced they were adding the COVID-19 vaccination to its student health clearance requirements beginning in the fall 2021 semester. However, according to surveys administered in late June, more than 92% of University of Hawaiʻi students and 95% of UH employees of the 10-campus system have been vaccinated against the virus or plan to be.

“Heartened by the high rate of vaccination among students and employees, UH is confident that under new guidelines being finalized its campuses will be safe even without fully enforcing the mandate when the fall semester begins,” UH officials stated in a press release. “Enforcement of the vaccination requirement to attend in-person classes will take place only after a vaccine is fully approved by the FDA, so will begin no sooner than the spring 2022 semester.”

UH President David Lassner said the single most important thing students and employees can do to protect their health and wellbeing is to be fully vaccinated for the upcoming fall semester.

“One hundred fifty-nine million Americans have safely received the vaccine and we are now seeing a growing number of preventable COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths among the unvaccinated,” Lassner said. “We are leaving the requirement in place, even if not fully enforced, to make the message clear.”

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The COVID-19 vaccine requirement will be enforced this fall for students who live in on-campus housing at UH Mānoa and UH Hilo because of the close communal contact. The vaccine requirement for other specific activities, events and facilities is yet to be determined.

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Health and religious exemptions will be available for student residents. Other limitations may apply to the unvaccinated, but they will not be prevented from enrolling in on-campus classes.

New safety guidelines will be released outlining practices to protect all students and employees. Face coverings will be required while indoors on campus and all students, employees and visitors will still be required to utilize the LumiSight UH health check app, which now includes the ability to easily demonstrate vaccination status.

The surveys administered by the UH Vaccination Team found that about 7% of students and 4% of employees still have no plans to receive a COVID-19 vaccine, with some expressing concern over the lack of full US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval of any COVID-19 vaccine.

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The surveys asked participants for their vaccination status and if they were not planning to be vaccinated, why. The student survey was administered to a stratified, randomized sample based on the student body size of each campus. Of the 1,212 students surveyed, 31.1% responded. The employee survey was sent to all 12,280 UH personnel and had a 49% response rate. The results of both surveys can be viewed online here. The university is planning a follow-up survey of all students in mid-August and will provide assistance in getting vaccinated for anyone interested.

All 10 UH campuses will see dramatic increases in in-person instruction and on-campus activities this fall, with even more on-campus activity planned for the spring semester.

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