Sep. 1—University of Toledo students and employees will have to choose between getting their coronavirus vaccine shots or having their noses swabbed weekly to test for infection.
The university announced Wednesday that all students and employees must be vaccinated or have an approved exemption by Nov. 15. Those who receive a two-dose vaccine will need to get the first shot no later than Oct. 15. This applies to students taking all online courses as well if they want to participate in any campus activities.
Those who are not vaccinated by Nov. 15, or fail to submit the required information by that date, will be tested weekly, according to the UT statement.
All students and staff are now required to wear masks indoors on campus, but Meghan Cunningham, UT's executive director of marketing and communications, said officials might loosen mask requirements for vaccinated individuals if health officials deem it safe to do so — at which time those who aren't vaccinated would remain required to wear masks.
While more excessive punishments aren't expected for noncompliance at this time, "additional modifications may be implemented as needed" after UT officials review the vaccine requirement's effectiveness, the university said.
Dr. Amy Thompson, UT's senior vice provost of academic affairs, said the decision to impose the vaccine requirement followed conversations with students, faculty, and staff. She said most supported a mandate, with the faculty senate on Tuesday passing a resolution supporting mandatory vaccination and The University of Toledo Physicians group likewise approving last week a vaccine mandate for clinical faculty members.
Along with helping to get more people in the campus and overall community vaccinated, Dr. Thompson said making the vaccine mandatory — and requiring employees and students to file paperwork or exemptions — will better help officials track how many are vaccinated.
For the past two weeks, UT has had a system in place allowing employees and students to voluntarily submit data about their vaccination status — with roughly 20 percent choosing to do so thus far. With a mandatory system, she said the university will have much better data.
For those who aren't vaccinated, Dr. Thompson said this gives UT officials a chance to not only track whether they get sick, but to educate them and make sure they're receiving correct information about the vaccinations.
"This is not meant to be a punitive requirement. We're trying to work together to get as many people as possible vaccinated. And if they're not vaccinated, to know what their COVID status is," she said. "So those are two important steps in reducing the risk and transmission on campus."
She added that this is just the most recent addition to the list of mandatory vaccines required by UT, with officials also requiring ones for flu and meningitis at the start of this school year.
UT's coronavirus vaccine mandate comes on the heels of many others by Ohio colleges and universities in the past few weeks following the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's approval last week of the Pfizer vaccine.
Ohio University recently announced a Nov. 15 deadline for students, faculty, and staff to receive the coronavirus vaccine, adding it's a requirement for participation in spring semester classes and other in-person activities. Miami University announced Tuesday a similar vaccine mandate with a deadline of Nov. 22. Those who don't have at least a first dose by Oct. 25 also can't register for spring classes.
Other schools, including the University of Akron as well as Ohio State and Kent State universities, announced similar vaccination requirements last week for students and employees.
Bowling Green State University officials haven't decided yet whether they too will move forward with a coronavirus vaccine mandate.
"BGSU continues to engage in a dialogue with our student leaders, staff and representatives of the various bargaining units pursuant to the collective bargaining agreements about any changes to our vaccination plans for our community," Alex Solis, a BGSU spokesman, said in an email. "Just as we have done throughout the global pandemic, we will be flexible and adaptable. Any potential vaccine requirements will include appropriate and balanced exemptions. More information will be forthcoming."
Vaccine mandates by universities are coming as Ohio health officials report the highest number of daily cases of coronavirus infections — more than 5,900 people — in the past three weeks.
The state has averaged 3,570 cases per day over the last three weeks. On Aug. 3, Ohio's 21-day average was at 855 cases a day, the Ohio Department of Health said.
Information from The Blade's news services was used in this report.
First Published September 1, 2021, 1:18pm