University spokesman Brian Coy told The Washington Post that 49 of the students disenrolled had actually registered for fall classes, “meaning that a good number of the remaining 189 may not have been planning to return to the university this fall at all, regardless of our vaccination policy.”
The school’s policy requires all students who wish to live and study in person at UVA to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 during the 2021–2022 academic year.
Exemptions are allowed for medical or religious grounds, with the university’s news service reporting that, as of Aug. 18, the school has issued 335 permanent vaccine waivers and 184 temporary ones for students who faced difficulty getting vaccinated where they were living over the summer but who have indicated their intent to get the shot before resuming on-campus life and study.
University staff have repeatedly contacted students who haven’t submitted proof of vaccination to encourage them to get the shot or apply for an exemption, the UVA news service reported, adding that noncompliant students would be disenrolled.
So far, around 99.6 percent of UVA students have confirmed they are fully vaccinated, including 97.1 percent of students living in campus dorms, the UVA news service reported, while around 92 percent of the school’s academic staff are fully vaccinated, including 96 percent of teaching and research faculty.
Unvaccinated students, including those with approved exemptions, must mask up and undergo regular COVID-19 testing.
“If you’re unvaccinated, we ask that you wear a mask at all times—indoors or outdoors—whenever you’re around people,” Coy told CNN. “Anyone unvaccinated and has an exemption will have to test once a week, we’re starting once a week: That might go up.”
In response to the spread of the highly contagious Delta variant, the school adopted an additional temporary policy earlier in August that requires everyone on campus—regardless of vaccination status—to wear masks indoors at least through Sept. 6. Exceptions to the masking rule apply to people inside dorms and private housing, or when they’re alone in closed spaces such as offices. School officials hope to modify or lift the masking rule by Sept. 6.
During a virtual town hall on Aug. 11, UVA leaders expressed hope that the school’s high vaccination rates would minimize the spread of the Delta variant.
“We are in a much better and much different position than we were last year, primarily because of the vaccines and the extraordinarily high vaccination rate in our community,” UVA President Jim Ryan said.
“This means we can return in person to classes, activities, sporting events, and research labs as we have been planning to do in the fall semester, with the residential experiences that are at the heart of this university.”
Vaccine mandates have become a hot-button issue, with advocates arguing they’re needed to prevent overloading hospital resources and to help protect vulnerable people and those who can’t get the vaccine for medical reasons. Opponents tend to argue that mandates infringe on people’s right to make personal health decisions, that the emergency-use-authorized vaccines haven’t yet been fully approved by federal health authorities, along with concerns about side effects.
Conservative advocacy group Turning Point USA in July announced the launch of a campaign to oppose COVID-19 vaccine mandates on the nation’s college campuses.
According to the Chronicle of Higher Education, 749 campuses across the United States have imposed vaccine mandates.