Fall 2021 Vaccine Requirements for Students and Employees

Published On

Wed, 05/05/2021 - 4:36 pm

Dear WWU Community,

After careful consideration and assessing the direction taken by several public and private universities both within Washington state and nationally, Western will require COVID vaccinations for students, faculty, and staff before returning to campus for the fall 2021 quarter.  This decision was endorsed by the WWU Board of Trustees at a special meeting on Wednesday, May 5, in the belief that it will protect the health and safety of the community on- and off- campus and speed our return to more normal in-person operations.

This mandate is based on the advice of local, state, and national health department officials and guidance from the Governor’s office.  It is also based on the expectation that the coronavirus vaccines currently approved for emergency use will receive full approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration by summer, which has been one of the primary factors in our consideration of a vaccine mandate.  These vaccines have been in use since mid-December under emergency use authorizations.  Since that time, data have shown the vaccines to be effective against the coronavirus that causes COVID-19. 

We have made vaccination an urgent priority because we believe a fully vaccinated community is the best way to protect our individual and collective health and safety.  In addition, through widespread vaccination, WWU can more confidently loosen or remove restrictions that have impacted social and mental well-being and increase access to a more enriched in-person campus living and learning experience for more students.  We are making this announcement now in the hope that community members will feel safer and more comfortable as we make a vibrant, on-campus return this fall, and have as much time as possible to make informed planning decisions.

This decision has been taken after considerable thought.  I understand that not everyone may be in a position to be vaccinated against COVID-19 at this time.  Please consult with your healthcare provider for guidance.  Western will consider requests for applicable exemptions for medical, religious and personal reasons; these exemptions will be consistent with the policy currently in place for our measles vaccination requirement.  More information will be provided before the end of spring quarter on how to file for an exemption.

I encourage students to get vaccinated wherever they live and as soon as possible.  The Washington state Department of Health vaccine locator website may be helpful, and please remember that COVID vaccines are always free of charge.

In addition, Western, in partnership with the Department of Health and the Washington National Guard, is sponsoring a COVID-19 vaccine clinic this Friday, May 7th from 9am to 4pm at the Viking Union Multi-Purpose Room.  The single dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine will be available for Western students, employees, eligible family members (18+ years old), and the public.  Register here for an appointment: Viking Vax Day Registration.

Students will need to verify that they have been vaccinated unless they are claiming an exemption.  If students are unable to get vaccinated because of where they currently reside, the University will provide access to vaccination upon arrival to campus.

We recognize that a vaccination requirement for some employee groups is subject to bargaining.  We will immediately initiate the bargaining process with faculty and staff unions prior to implementing the vaccine requirement for all employees.

Requiring COVID vaccinations this fall raises new questions.  While we do not yet have all the answers, please know that we are working diligently across units to answer key operational questions that will facilitate our safe return to campus.  We will be sharing more information campus-wide as plans are finalized.  In particular, we’ll communicate about any relief from distancing requirements, relief that would significantly increase the amount of face-to-face classes and co-curricular activities. 

In the meantime, you may find answers to your questions about vaccinations at the Vax Facts FAQThe CDC’s webpages on the benefits of getting vaccinated, key things to know, and frequently asked questions about the vaccine also provide helpful information.

We will continue to follow local, state and national health directives, and reserve the right to change this directive if circumstances change.  Thank you for your participation in this important effort and for your commitment to our community’s health and safety.

With gratitude,

Sabah Randhawa