COVID-19 vaccine 'strongly recommended' but not required for UNC System students, officials say

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Tuesday, April 20, 2021
UNC System encouraging COVID vaccines for students but not mandating it
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After App State faculty passed a resolution supporting mandatory vaccines for returning students, some are wondering if the UNC System can mandate COVID vaccines.

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (WTVD) -- Stane Biju and Emma Gerden have both gotten their COVID-19 vaccines and are finishing up their sophomore year at UNC Chapel Hill.

"It takes away from a lot of the stress of being able to walk around campus," Biju said.

Both believe the vaccine should be mandatory for next semester.

"You think about other vaccinations and other shots being required for students to go to school," Gerden said. "So it seems like it should be another requirement for students even if it were a smaller campus."

On Monday, the faculty on the smaller campus of Appalachian State University in Boone passed a resolution supporting mandatory vaccines for students before they come back for the fall semester.

"I think there's a lot of interest in having as many people on our campus as possible who are vaccinated," said Dr. Mimi Chapman, chair of the faculty at UNC and a professor in the school of social work. "This is the way we get rid of the pandemic. We have to vaccinate ourselves out of it so again why wouldn't universities want to lead the way in doing that."


Dr. Chapman said she met Friday with representatives from all over campus. They're waiting for more information for their legal team before deciding whether they want to do something like App State did.

"If there is a law that needs to be changed, let's do it," Chapman said.

There is a state law which requires certain vaccines for students in grades K-12 but the vaccines have to have been officially approved by the FDA.

COVID-19 vaccines are only approved under emergency use.

Legal experts said though it's unclear how that law applies at the university level, they emphasized it can always be changed.

"Requiring vaccines is not new to college campuses," Dr. Chapman said. "Campuses led the way in March saying students needed to not be traveling and stay home. That allowed the rest of the country to really say, 'We have a problem,' and we could play the same role again."

The UNC System leads the way for 16 institutions statewide including Chapel Hill.

It said it strongly recommends students get the vaccine but is not requiring it.

"To date, campus clinics have administered more than 73,000 vaccinations and they will continue to do so in the coming weeks and months. We want to ensure students have free and convenient access to vaccinations so they can return to the full college experience as soon as possible."

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