U. of I. to require vaccinations for all students returning to its 3 campuses this fall

Most prominent private Chicago universities have already announced their students must get shots before returning in the fall.

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A person wearing a mask walks around the campus of University of Illinois at Chicago Friday afternoon, Aug. 14, 2020. | Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

Pat Nabong/Sun-Times, Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

The University of Illinois is requiring its 90,000 students to receive a COVID-19 vaccination before returning to its three campuses in the fall, officials said Monday.

The state’s flagship U. of I. system in Urbana-Champaign, Chicago and Springfield becomes the first public university in the state to require vaccinations after a handful of private institutions did the same.

“This requirement is consistent with our own scientific modeling of the risks associated with the spread of the virus and its variants,” university leaders wrote in an email to students, faculty and staff.

“Throughout the COVID-19 crisis, students have helped make the University of Illinois System a model for the nation — a model of community, a model of safety and a model of pulling together for the common good,” officials said. “We look forward to their help in setting the standard again this fall, a semester that will restore most in-person instruction and many of the other traditional rhythms of campus life that COVID interrupted last year.”

Anyone planning to study remotely will be exempt from the vaccination requirement, the university said. Guidelines for faculty and staff were still being developed and would be announced later in the summer.

The university was praised this past school year for its stringent COVID-19 protocols that led to no hospitalizations or deaths on the Urbana-Champaign campus in the fall with a positivity rate below 1%. Other universities copied UIUC’s rapid testing system and other safety precautions.

Most prominent private Chicago universities — University of Chicago, Northwestern, Loyola, Columbia College and DePaul — have already announced their students must get shots before returning in the fall.

Several of the state’s public universities have not announced official policies yet on whether the vaccine will be mandated this fall. Illinois State University has said it will not require students get shots.

Among other public universities in the midwest, Indiana University is requiring the vaccine, as is the University of Michigan for students living on campus. The University of Minnesota, on the other hand, said it won’t require them.

Nationally, the 10-campus University of California and the 23-campus California State University have announced vaccine requirements, the largest public universities to do so.

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