Board of Regents decides not to require COVID vaccinations for UI, ISU and UNI; Grinnell announces it will

Downtown Iowa City, including the University of Iowa Pentacrest and Iowa River, from a plane, June 2018. — Emma McClatchey/Little Village

Iowa’s three public universities will not require students or staff to be vaccinated against COVID-19, Iowa Board of Regents President Michael Richards announced at the board’s meeting in Ames on Wednesday.

“I’d like to make it clear that while we continue to strongly encourage members of our campus community to get vaccinated, the regents universities will not be mandating vaccinations for any student [or] employees now or for the 2021-22 academic year,” Richards said.

The University of Iowa, Iowa State University and the University of Northern Iowa all plan to resume their pre-pandemic models of in-person instruction for the 2021-22 academic year.

In contrast to the regents’ decision, Grinnell College informed its students on Wednesday it will require proof of vaccination for those enrolling in classes for the 2021-22 semesters.

“The efficacy of vaccines, as well as expanded vaccine eligibility and availability, allows us to address the higher risk of transmission in a communal living environment and affirms this additional step to protect the health of our community,” the email sent to students by the private college said.

“Students who are unable to acquire a vaccine in their home state or country will be provided with a vaccine upon arrival to campus in the fall by Student Health and Wellness (SHAW),” Grinnell’s The Scarlet & Black reported.

Students will be able to request exemptions from the vaccine requirement for medical or religious reasons. SHAW will evaluate each request on an individual basis, the paper said.

“This can go a long way toward reassuring someone who’s thinking about joining the community for the first time that this is a place taking its role in public health seriously,” Joseph Bagnoli, vice president of enrollment and dean of admission at Grinnell, said of the decision to require vaccinations.

Grinnell joins a small but growing number of colleges and universities that will require proof of COVID-19 vaccination. Most are private schools, but the first one to announce a vaccination requirement was Rutgers, a Big Ten state university in New Jersey.

“We’re looking to build the safest campus in America,” Antonio Calcado, Rutgers’s executive vice president, told CBS New York when the requirement was announced last month.

“We want to give our students, in a safe manner, back their college experience. We do expect there will be people who do not agree with this decision, and we’ll deal with that.”

Although COVID-19 vaccinations won’t be required, UI, ISU and UNI students are not exempt from all vaccinations. All three school require students to submit documentation showing they have had two MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) vaccinations.


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According to a survey published by The Journal of Law, Medicine and Ethics in 2019, almost 90 percent of all U.S. colleges and universities require proof of MMR vaccinations.

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