July 16, 2021
The University of California announced Thursday that it is mandating the coronavirus vaccines for students and faculty members — making it the largest public university system to do so, according to the Los Angeles Times.
On the same day, the University of Hawaii system nixed its vaccine mandate for the fall term, citing surveys it administered that showed the vast majority of students and employees had already received or planned to get the shots.
The two announcements highlight the debate raging nationwide about whether colleges can — or should — require the vaccines even though they haven’t yet received full approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
Nationwide, more than 580 campuses are requiring at least some students or employees to get the coronavirus vaccine, according to The Chronicle of Higher Education. But the publication notes that its count includes schools whose mandates depend on at least one of the vaccines receiving full FDA approval.
All three coronavirus vaccines available in the U.S. have only received emergency use authorization, which allows them to be administered quicker than is typical during a health crisis. College policies requiring students and employees to get vaccines that are approved under EUA are in uncharted legal territory and could draw lawsuits. But some legal scholars think they are unlikely to succeed.
Pfizer applied for full FDA approval in early May and Moderna followed suit in June, but it could take months before the agency reaches a decision. The FDA is aiming to decide by January on full approval for the Pfizer vaccine, Pfizer and its partner BioNTech said Friday.