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University of Virginia explains decision behind vaccine mandate for students

Updated: May. 20, 2021 at 9:24 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) - The University of Virginia announced on Thursday that all of its students will need to be fully vaccinated in order to attend in-person classes in the fall. But, not everyone on grounds will need to have their shots.

University staff and faculty are not required to get their shots, though UVA says it expects they will. Anyone who doesn’t get the shot will face continued health measures, including getting tested at least once a week.

Related: UVA to require vaccinations for students for fall return to in-person operation

Students, however, won’t be allowed to come onto Grounds unless they’re vaccinated or receive a specific medical or religious exemption.

While university grounds are currently filled with people celebrating the end of a school year, the start of the next one will look quite different.

“It should look and feel more like a normal semester at UVA,” said University Spokesperson Brian Coy.

Coy says the vaccine mandate was created to bring back UVA’s “natural experience,” and that has students like rising third-year Mahdin Hossain excited.

“I got here and I absolutely fell in love with the school because of the people I met and the people that I surrounded myself with,” he said. “And that was something I really love, just meeting new people, which obviously was a bit more difficult to do online.”

Hossain says the new guidelines make him feel safe to be in a classroom again.

But his teachers won’t face the same vaccine demands. Coy says this is because there’s “a little bit of a difference historically” between mandating shots for students and staff. Additionally, staff members usually don’t live in congregate settings, like dorms.

The university is still encouraging all of them to get their shots, but it’s not required.

“These vaccines are effective, they’re widely available, and they are the most powerful weapon we have in the fight against this pandemic,” Coy said. “They save lives.”

After a year of largely virtual life, future UVA nursing student Corinne Gardner says learning is best when you’re in the same room as your peers.

“I’ve really missed seeing facial expressions, and that’s really important for getting to know people and having a human connection,” Gardner said.

The university says these new rules could mean the end of social distancing and mask-wearing, and the new beginning of old sights.

“People studying together in classrooms that are full, teachers and students working together, clubs meeting, intramural sports, people in the stands at athletic events,” Coy said.

The vaccine mandate goes into effect on July 1. Students will need to upload proof of their vaccination to the HealthyHoos website in order to step foot on grounds for the fall semester.

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