Despite Michigan State’s University Council voting in favor of a vaccine mandate for the upcoming fall semester, the university will not require students, faculty, or staff to get vaccinated.
In a Faculty Senate meeting Executive Vice President for Health Sciences Norman Beauchamp said that MSU is planning for a “typical semester” with the majority of classes being in person.
“The plan at present is that MSU will not require COVID-19 vaccines for faculty, staff and students,” Beauchamp said.
“We expect our resident halls to return to a fuller capacity and we expect to be able to re-engage opening museums on campus and engage in social events as well as sports,” Beauchamp said.
People who partake in international, domestic and university-related travel will be required to be vaccinated. The medical school and health facilities will also require some students to be vaccinated to engage in patient interactions, Beauchamp said.
Faculty, staff, and students that are not vaccinated will still be required to wear face coverings when indoors, per guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. People coming to campus will be required to attest to their vaccination and show documentation if they are asked, Beauchamp said.
“I think a lot of the emphasis will be on really kind of an honor code, right? Where people will be expected to be truthful in their statement about having had vaccinations," Beauchamp said. "We're going to ask that all people coming to campus that have not been vaccinated participate in the EDP (Early Detection Program) so that we have a way to detect instances of COVID.”
Students' vaccination statuses are protected under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act and will not be shared with their professors.
To address the concern of student and faculty safety, Associate Provost for Undergraduate Education Mark Largent said, "I would agree wholeheartedly that there is a distinction between people being relatively safe and feeling relatively safe, and that we need to respect both: the fact of people's safety and the effect of whether or not people feel safe."
Beauchamp said the understood standard is that it is safe to be in an environment with people who are vaccinated.
According to the Ingham County Health Department’s update on June 18, 58.3%, or 140,846, of Ingham County residents age 16 and up have received at least their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.
While MSU President Samuel L. Stanley Jr. was not present to defend the university's decision due to a conflict, he encouraged people to get vaccinated during the press conference after the June 18 Board of Trustees meeting. He has also joined the Vaccine Champion Challenge put on by The White House and the U.S. Department of Education.
“We're down to a community transmission rate right now of below 3 per 100,000," Largent said. "That's profoundly different than it was last fall... And if you are to contract it after you have been vaccinated, your hospitalization rate is extraordinarily low relative to not being vaccinated," Largent said. "And the death rate is effectively 0. So it is a very different context than we were facing a year ago."
Largent said large amounts of money have been invested into the ventilation systems over the last year to make classrooms safer from the annual influenza epidemic, colds and other illnesses.
“The science has changed over the last 12 months," Largent said. "We understand the virus much better, we understand how it's spread, and we understand when and where people contract it to a much greater degree than we did 12 months ago.”
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