A second Minnesota college will now require its students to take the coronavirus vaccine.
Macalester College in St. Paul was the first institution of higher education in the state to unveil a COVID-19 vaccine requirement on April 23. Seven days later, Carleton College in Northfield made a similar announcement, citing “a strong ethical rationale.”
Presently, state law requires public school students to receive common and time-tested vaccines that guard against diseases like rubella, diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, polio and others. However, there is no legal mandate that any Minnesotans take the COVID-19 vaccine. Rather, Macalester and Carleton are imposing their requirements based only on the judgment of school administrators.
“The wellbeing of our campus community should not be put at risk by personal preferences,” said Macalester President Suzanne Rivera. “Science informs and guides our public health strategies.”
Meanwhile, Carleton students who take the shot will not enjoy any relaxation of safety measures. “All members of our on-campus community are subject to the same expectations regarding mask-wearing, physical distancing, limiting close contacts, and self-monitoring for symptoms of COVID-19,” the school says.
Both colleges agree that certain “limited exceptions” to their new policies will be granted as to not violate state or federal law — but it is unclear exactly what these exceptions might be. Further complicating the legal situation, “some people have interpreted [emergency use authorization] as restricting colleges and universities from requiring vaccinations,” reports Ann Huntrods, a partner at a prestigious Minneapolis law firm, per TCB.
The University of Minnesota has been notably more restrained in its approach to coronavirus vaccinations. “It’s important to note that setting any sort of requirement at this time would be premature for several reasons,” the university says.
One factor likely driving the hesitancy of large state schools to require the shot is the fact that the vaccines have not yet received full FDA approval. Rather, they have been approved for use under an “emergency use authorization.” Top health experts published in JAMA believe that “mandating COVID-19 vaccines under an EUA is legally and ethically problematic … Vaccine mandates are unjustified because an EUA requires less safety and efficacy data than full Biologics License Application (BLA) approval.”
It is unclear when the vaccines will be officially approved. AstraZeneca in particular has struggled to get the data needed to show that its injections are safe and effective. The company has turned to data from the U.K. in an attempt to generate reports to earn approval in the U.S., per the Wall Street Journal.