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UH will not enforce COVID-19 vaccine mandate for classes

System cites high vaccination rates; UH-Maui rates among lowest

The Maui News

The University of Hawaii will not enforce a COVID-19 vaccine mandate in order for students to attend class, with rates of vaccination already estimated to be high among students and employees, UH announced last week.

According to surveys administered in late June to all employees and some students of the 10-campus system, more than 92 percent of UH students and 95 percent of UH employees have been vaccinated for the virus or plan to be. The surveys also found that about 7 percent of students and 4 percent of employees still have no plans to receive a vaccine, with some expressing concern over the lack of full U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval of any COVID-19 vaccine.

The student survey was administered to a stratified, randomized sample based on the student body size of each campus, UH explained. Of the 1,212 students surveyed, 31.1 percent responded. UH-Maui College saw a 20 percent response rate among the 80 samples sent, with 75 percent reporting they were vaccinated (third lowest after Hawaii and Honolulu community colleges), 12.5 percent saying they planned to (third highest) and 12.5 percent saying they did not plan to (second highest after Honolulu Community College).

The employee survey, meanwhile, was sent to all 12,280 UH personnel with a 49 percent response rate. A total of 254 employees at UH-Maui College responded, with 90.6 percent saying they were vaccinated, in the process or planning to be vaccinated, the lowest rate among all the campuses. The 9.4 percent who said they were not planning to be vaccinated was the highest among all campuses.

UH is planning a follow-up survey of all students in mid-August and will provide assistance in getting vaccinated for anyone interested.

The university had announced in May that it planned to require COVID-19 shots for on-campus learning, but the mandate was dependent upon full federal approval for one of the vaccines, which hasn’t happened yet. The inclusion of the COVID-19 vaccination in UH health clearance requirements for students will remain in place with enforcement limited to student housing residents and other specific activities, events and facilities to be determined.

Enforcement of the vaccination requirement to attend in-person classes will take place only after a vaccine is fully approved by the FDA and thus will begin no sooner than the spring 2022 semester.

“The single most important thing our students and employees can do to protect the health and well-being of themselves, their families and our campus communities is to be fully vaccinated for the upcoming fall semester,” UH President David Lassner said in a news release. “159 million Americans have safely received the vaccine and we are now seeing a growing number of preventable COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths among the unvaccinated. We are leaving the requirement in place, even if not fully enforced, to make the message clear.”

The COVID-19 vaccine requirement will be enforced this fall for students who live in on-campus housing at UH Manoa and UH Hilo because of close communal contact. Health and religious exemptions will be available for student residents. Other limitations may apply to the unvaccinated, but they will not be prevented from enrolling in on-campus classes, UH said.

New safety guidelines will be released, and face coverings will be required indoors on campus. All students, employees and visitors will still be required to use the LumiSight UH health check app, which now includes the ability to easily demonstrate vaccination status.

UH expects all 10 campuses to see dramatic increases for in-person instruction and on-campus activities this fall, with even more planned for the spring semester.

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