WU mandates COVID-19 vaccination for students by fall semester

and | Managing Editor and Senior News Editor


A seated student lifts a patterned shirtsleeve so that a person with a blue mask and a faceshield can inject a needle into the student's left arm.

Freshman Despina Tsiamtsiouris receives a dose of the Pfizer vaccine at the School of Medicine’s vaccination clinic on April 16. Washington University joined more than 100 other schools by mandating the vaccine. (Photo by Orli Sheffey | Student Life)

Washington University will require all students to be fully vaccinated by the fall semester.

Citing the need to create the safest possible environment on the Danforth and Medical campuses, Chancellor Andrew Martin, Provost Beverly Wendland and dean of the School of Medicine David Perlmutter announced the vaccine mandate in an email to students, April 28. 

“Vaccination against COVID-19 will play a key role in allowing us to resume our regular activities, protect our community, and prevent the spread of illness both on our campuses and in the St. Louis region,” Martin, Wendland and Perlmutter wrote.

According to Dr. Cheri LeBlanc, executive director of Habif Health and Wellness, as of April 23, 1299 students and 1451 faculty and staff members have received the vaccine through the University. On the student health portal, as of April 25, 818 students have reported being fully vaccinated, and another 44 students have reported being partially vaccinated.

The University’s vaccination requirement comes after 112 colleges and universities have required the vaccine for students in the fall, according to the Chronicle of Higher Education.

Student Union President Ranen Miao said that he was “very happy” about the vaccine mandate, although he wished the University had done it sooner, especially since schools such as Yale, Stanford, Brown, Cornell and Notre Dame had already done so. 

“It’s a moral obligation that we have to vaccinate ourselves and to keep our communities safe,” Miao said. “I wish we were able to come out [with the mandate] earlier, especially as we saw vaccine availability and accessibility was becoming broader.”

[What administrators weighed as they decided whether to mandate the vaccine]

Faculty and staff are not currently subject to the vaccine requirement, but an email from Wendland and Vice Chancellor of Human Resources Legail Chandler “strongly encouraged” faculty and staff to get vaccinated, and promised to provide more information for employees within the next few weeks.

The new policy will allow for religious and medical exemptions to the vaccine requirement. The details of the exemption process, as well as the process for vaccination verification, have yet to be announced, but will be communicated to students in the coming weeks.

Miao, although strongly supporting religious and medical exemptions to the vaccine requirement, encouraged students with religious concerns to look at resources and statements from faith leaders who have come out in support of the vaccine. 

“Deeply held religious beliefs are incredibly important and valid, and I think students on our campus deserve to exercise that, especially if their religion forbids them from using vaccines,” he said. “But a lot of religious leaders have come out and said ‘look a lot of these concerns, on the basis of religion, or the basis of fetal cell tissue which was used to develop the J&J vaccine, are not reasons for you not to take the vaccine.’”

The University also committed to assisting students who are unable to get the vaccine before arrival, citing local opportunities for vaccination such as the Barnes-Jewish Healthcare system and the School of Medicine, where the University has been vaccinating students, faculty and staff since April 9. If students receive one of the two-dose vaccines before leaving St. Louis for the summer, they will be able to get the second dose in another state.

More Student Life stories about vaccine distribution on campus and in St. Louis:

Pfizer rollout begins at WUSM campus following pause in J&J distribution

As vaccine rollout begins on campus, WU experts say statewide rollout remains inequitable

WU students drive long distances to secure COVID-19 vaccines amid St. Louis rollout

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