St. Edwards becomes one of the first universities in nation to require COVID-19 vaccine this fall for in-person activities

St. Edwards University is requiring a COVID-19 vaccine for students and faculty this fall, one of the first universities in the country to announce a policy for on campus activities. Credit: Allie Goulding/The Texas Tribune

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St. Edwards University, a small, private university in Austin with about 4,300 students, is one of a few universities in the country so far requiring students and employees to get a COVID-19 vaccine for the fall semester if they need to return in person.

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According to a campus announcement late last month, people can opt out of the vaccine requirement for religious, medical or personal reasons. But they must obtain a notarized exemption document, as is required for other required vaccines such as the meningitis shot.

If students don’t comply or submit exemption documentation by Sept. 1, they would not be able to live on campus or have access to campus facilities, and would be limited in what courses they could take.

According to the university’s website, officials are planning for more in-person activities this fall, including most classes. Dormitories will be open but limited to one student per room.

Across the country, at least four other colleges and universities have instituted similar vaccination mandates, including Rutgers University in New Jersey, a public university, and Cornell University, which is private.

On Tuesday, Gov. Greg Abbott issued an executive order that would prevent all government agencies, including public universities, from instituting COVID-19 requirements for services. The order also applies to organizations that receive public money.

Neither the governor’s office nor a university spokesperson immediately responded to requests for comment about if this order could affect St. Edwards.