Washington State University (WSU) said it will no longer exempt students from its COVID-19 vaccination mandate for personal or philosophical reasons, citing the “increasing threat of the delta variant for those who are unvaccinated.”
In an announcement released on Aug. 12, the university officials said the change will take place as soon as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) grants full approval to any of the three vaccines authorized for emergency use.
Currently, no coronavirus vaccine is fully approved by the FDA, but vaccines from Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson are being administered across the nation under emergency use authorization by the federal agency.
The university, whose campus in Pullman serves over 31,000 students, also said that it is accelerating the deadline for students to comply with the vaccination requirement from November to Sept. 10. The fall term begins at WSU on Aug. 23.
“Once the personal exemption is formally removed from the university’s vaccination policy, students will have up to 45 days to initiate the vaccination process by getting at least one dose of an approved vaccine or request a new religious or medical exemption,” the university added.
Under the university’s vaccination policy, students, faculty, and staff who don’t get vaccinated may be restricted from participating in events and activities. They are required to wear facial coverings indoors.
“The university may impose further restrictions in the interest of maintaining public health, until you have complied with the vaccine requirement,” the school said in a campus-wide email.
The announcement comes as hundreds of U.S. colleges and universities require that all students and faculty members be vaccinated for COVID-19 before returning or coming to campus. In a recent lawsuit, eight Indiana University students had sued the school over a vaccination mandate that blocked unvaccinated students from registering for class. Seven of the students qualify for a religious exemption, but they have to wear masks and undergo COVID-19 testing under the university policy.
The students said in court filings that they have “a constitutional right to bodily integrity, autonomy, and of medical treatment choice in the context of a vaccination mandate.” They wanted the court to issue an order barring the university from enforcing the policy.
On Aug. 2, a federal appeals court upheld a lower court ruling in favor of the university, saying that students failed to show enough evidence that their constitutional rights were being violated. An attempt to challenge the policy in the U.S. Supreme Court was rejected last week by Justice Amy Coney Barrett.