In about-face, University of Minnesota to require COVID vaccination

Fewer than 2,000 college-aged people in America have died from COVID-19 the last 17 months, out of over 630,000 total, or less than 0.03%.

The University of Minnesota-Twin Cities campus in Minneapolis. (Fibonacci Blue/Flickr)

More than 60,000 University of Minnesota students will be required to get COVID-19 vaccines once the shot receives full approval from the FDA, which is expected soon. Those who do not get vaccinated will be subject to regular COVID-19 tests.

“This will allow us the best chance to have normal campus activity this fall and uninterrupted in-person, on-campus instruction,” President Joan Gabel announced Monday. “We understand that this is a challenging decision for our community, but our interests are first and foremost the health of our students, faculty and staff.”

Only eight weeks ago, the state’s largest school said it would not require a coronavirus vaccination for the upcoming school year.

The university’s five campuses join schools across the country in issuing vaccine mandates. About a dozen private colleges in Minnesota also have implemented similar mandates. Minnesota State leadership is not yet requiring students at its 30 community colleges and seven universities to be vaccinated.

Roughly 55 percent of Minnesota’s population is already fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

Despite hype about the delta variant, deaths in Minnesota have remained relatively low in recent weeks. Former FDA commissioner Scott Gottlieb said Monday that delta is possibly the final wave of coronavirus.

The decision will need approval from the school’s Board of Regents, which is expected to support the edict.

“We have to maintain in-person instruction,” Regent Steve Sviggum told the Star Tribune, saying a vaccine mandate “is the best way to ensure students and employees are safe while classes operate in person.”

Nearly 80% of fall classes at the Twin Cities campus are scheduled to be taught in person. Fall classes do not start until after Labor Day.

The university’s much-criticized infectious disease expert Michael Osterholm said exemptions will only be allowed for religious or medical reasons, not personal.

Nearly 90% of Minnesota’s coronavirus-related deaths are among seniors and all recent fatalities are over age 70. Fewer than 2,000 college-aged people in America have died from COVID-19 the last 17 months, out of over 630,000 total, or less than 0.03%.