College leaders weigh COVID-19 vaccine requirement

Will local colleges require students to get the vaccine?

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) - Local college leaders are deciding if students must get the COVID vaccine to return to campus in the fall, when many colleges expect to begin full in-person learning again.

Talladega College President Dr. Billy Hawkins’ most immediate concern is providing access to the COVID vaccine right now.

“We were already successful in vaccinating over 95 percent of our faculty and staff,” said Hawkins, “Our next step was to vaccinate students before they go home for break.”

The vaccine clinic set to start Friday is postponed until further notice after the FDA paused Johnson and Johnson vaccine distribution over health safety concerns. The brand students were set to receive. As leaders work through next steps, the college’s COVID task force is also deciding if students must have the vaccine to come back in the fall.

“I feel it’s the right thing to do and would certainly make for better, safer environment, but if not that we will still have our protocols in place for the fall,” said Hawkins.

Hawkins says colleges and universities have not gotten guidance from the federal government or state about medical requirements.

The University of Alabama System, which represents UAB, The University of Alabama and The University of Ala. in Huntsville, sent a statement to us Wednesday that said:

“The UA System Health and Safety Task Force continues to monitor the efficacy and availability of COVID-19 vaccines. At this time, there is not a COVID-19 vaccination mandate for the fall 2021 semester, but the Task Force strongly encourages students, faculty and staff to vaccinate. All eligible employees within the UA System have been offered the first dose of vaccination, at a minimum, and campuses intend to offer vaccination to all students as supply becomes available.”

Hawkins says leaders at his college will check with students and medical experts before making a final decision.

“No decision is made without the student input,” said Hawkins, “So we’re discussing it now and certainly follow the direction of professionals.”

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