Will your law school require you to be vaccinated?

More and more schools are announcing that they will require students to be vaccinated before attending on-campus classes this fall. And that number could grow.

Both New York and California’s public higher education systems recently announced they are making it mandatory, for instance. That will include their law schools.

Meanwhile, some state leaders — such as in Florida and Texas — are ordering the opposite, that businesses and schools can’t require COVID-19 passports — the so-called name for proof of vaccination. Nova Southeastern University in Southern Florida initially moved to require students to be vaccinated but reversed itself when Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed an executive order banning it statewide.

Many law schools are following the lead of their university partners, some of which announced as early as this spring that they want all students vaccinated so the fall start of classes can be more traditional. Even mask wearing may not be necessary, given that the CDC recently said that fully vaccinated people don’t need to wear them indoors.

“Looking ahead, we know that widespread vaccination will be the only way to facilitate a return to normal and robust campus life," Duke University President Vincent Price said in a recent statement that announced the vaccine requirement, which applies to the law school as well.

Got into Yale? Congrats on that great accomplishment! Now roll up your sleeve. It’s mandating vaccines too. And, like many of the schools, it’s providing the vaccine so it won’t be cumbersome for students. Yale has four student vaccination clinics.

Schools are hoping to finally move from the most disruptive pandemic in a century, and they see the three approved vaccine as a safe and effective way to do so. Many went to online instruction and have remained so throughout the spring. Many students and faculty have been itching for a return to the classroom. 

The U.S. vaccination effort has been growing. When this story was written, more than half of the population has received at least one dose. However, it’s not being embraced universally. About one in five adults say they won’t get the vaccine, according to a recent poll by Monmouth University.

According to the Kaiser Family Foundation COVID-19 Vaccine Monitor, the biggest reason people give for not getting the vaccine — about 17% of those declining — is that’s too new and its affects aren’t known.

But most students must comply — that is they want to go a school that requires the vaccination.

“The decision about whether to get a vaccination is a matter of personal choice. It’s also a matter of personal choice about whether you choose to attend Duke,” Michael Schoenfeld, Duke's chief communications and government relations officer told TV station WRAL in Durham, N.C.

A number of schools are allowing for exceptions when it comes to health reasons or religious beliefs. Having students vaccinated is considered key because many live in dorms or share apartments. They also party. Last year, outbreaks happened at off-campus gatherings and fraternities.   

Emory University School of Law in Atlanta is requiring vaccinations. The broader university did a survey and found that most students and faculty welcome the mandate.

Nearly three-quarters of the 3,766 students surveyed said they “strongly supported” the requirement, according to the Emory Wheel, the student university newspaper. Nearly 83% of faculty gave the same response.

Emory is a private school, which may have an easier time ordering that students get vaccinated because they don’t receive public funding. Some of the first schools to move in this direction were private.

States require students in their school systems to have a variety of vaccinations — polio, smallpox, etc. — and some have clamped down on parents that push back. California, for instance, toughened the medical exemption when it came to children and vaccines. A growing anti-vaccine movement was becoming worrisome. More and more children were entering schools unvaccinated. Measles outbreaks were occurring.

Most colleges require a number of vaccinations, too. However, the COVID-19 vaccinations don’t have FDA approval. The three that were approved by the agency are for emergency-use, but full FDA approval is expected this fall. Some schools question if they can mandate a vaccine that doesn’t have such approval. 

Yes, it’s complicated. Indeed, it all might make for a good law school exam question …

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