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WashU requiring students to be fully vaccinated before returning to campus this fall

Washington University students must be fully vaccinated before they arrive on campus in St. Louis for the start of the fall semester or by Aug. 30

ST. LOUIS — Washington University students will be required to get the COVID-19 vaccine before returning to campus for classes this fall, the school announced Wednesday afternoon.

The college shared the news via emails sent to students and staff; 5 On Your Side obtained a copy of the messages. In them, WashU said the increasing availability of vaccines will play a key role in safely resuming classes and activities for students, staff members and the greater St. Louis community.

“Vaccination against COVID-19 will play a key role in allowing us to resume our regular activities, protect our community, and prevent the spread of illness both on our campuses and in the St. Louis region, including, importantly, the patients we serve in our hospitals,” the email states.

“For these reasons, all Washington University students on the Danforth and Medical Campuses will be required to receive the COVID-19 vaccine,” the email stressed.

Students must be fully vaccinated before they arrive on campus for the start of the fall semester or by Aug. 30, whichever comes first. The university said it will assist students who need help getting a vaccine

WashU said exemptions will be allowed for students who aren’t able to receive the vaccine for religious or medical reasons. The university will give more information about the exemption process over the next several weeks.

Anyone who has questions or concerns about their health or receiving a COVID-19 vaccine can contact the school’s health centers. Danforth Campus students should contact Habif Health and Wellness Center by email or by calling 314-935-4959 during business hours, and Medical Campus students should contact Student Health Services by email or by calling 314-362-3523.

You can read the full email message sent to students below.

Dear Washington University students,

We are planning for the next academic year with an eye toward creating the safest possible environment on our campuses for our students, faculty, staff and visitors. The COVID-19 vaccine is becoming more widely available in the United States and its effectiveness in reducing the number and severity of infections is being clearly demonstrated across the country.

Vaccination against COVID-19 will play a key role in allowing us to resume our regular activities, protect our community, and prevent the spread of illness both on our campuses and in the St. Louis region, including, importantly, the patients we serve in our hospitals. For these reasons, all Washington University students on the Danforth and Medical Campuses will be required to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. Students must be fully vaccinated before they arrive on campus for the start of their fall academic term or August 30, whichever comes first.

We will allow exemptions for students who are unable to receive the vaccine for religious or medical reasons. For students who cannot get the vaccine prior to arrival, we will assist you in identifying opportunities to get the vaccine locally, including at the School of Medicine and BJC. We will provide more information about the exemption process, how to provide verification, and the availability of vaccinations on campus and locally in separate communications to students in the coming weeks.

If you have questions or concerns about your health and receiving a COVID-19 vaccine, Danforth Campus students should contact Habif Health and Wellness Center by email or by calling 314-935-4959 during business hours, and Medical Campus students should contact Student Health Services by email or by calling 314-362-3523.

Thank you for your support for our efforts to keep you and our community safe and healthy.

Sincerely,

Andrew D. Martin, PhD
Chancellor

David H. Perlmutter, MD
Executive Vice Chancellor for Medical Affairs and Dean, School of Medicine

Beverly Wendland, PhD
Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs

5 On Your Side caught up with a few students off campus after the vaccine status announcement. 

Andres Saavedra is a grad scholar at Washington University.

"If we are all going to be together in a classroom, we better all take the necessary precautions in order to be safe and in order for us to be healthy," Saavedra said.

Saavedra told 5 On Your Side he is already vaccinated. 

Undergrad Jack Fowler said he is close to getting his second dose of the vaccine and that he wants other Washington University students to get theirs too. 

"I really have no problem with it," he said. "I think it will allow us to get back to college faster and have a normal experience quicker."

Some academic institutions already require vaccines, like measles and chickenpox. SSM Health St. Louis University Hospital Chief Medical Officer Dr. Matt Broom said it's not out of the question for schools to add COVID-19 as a vaccine requirement. 

"I can understand where they are coming from because it's a safe vaccine and it's the best way for all of us to get to broader herd immunity," Dr. Broom said.

Agreeing with Dr. Broom, Dr. Melissa Tepe, Affinia Healthcare's Chief Medical Officer, said vaccination is the best way out of this pandemic. 

"I definitely think vaccines are one of our best tools to get out of this pandemic," she said. "I would encourage all of us who are eligible to receive vaccine to do so."