The Community College of Philadelphia became the first public college in the region Friday to say it will require students and staff to be vaccinated against COVID-19 to return to campus.

But the requirement, which will allow exemptions for medical and religious reasons, won’t be in place for the start of the semester.

Faculty and staff have until Oct. 1, and students, until Jan. 18.

“We wanted to make sure everyone has the opportunity to become fully vaccinated,” said college spokesperson Barry Johnson.

Donald Guy Generals, college president, said in a statement that the decision is crucial as case counts climb and the delta variant spreads.

“With the most recent surge in COVID-19 cases in Philadelphia and across the country, requiring COVID-19 vaccines is an important step in keeping the college community safe,” he said. “Studies are showing that the delta variant is not only more contagious, but is devastating young, unvaccinated African Americans between the ages of 20 and 34. With 72% of the college population identifying as people of color, we must do everything in our power to ensure that we are taking the proper precautions as we return to campus this fall. Vaccines save lives, and it is our responsibility to get vaccinated to protect ourselves and those around us.”

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The Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education has said its 14 public universities, including West Chester and Cheyney, don’t have the authority to require a vaccine and would need legislation. Neither Pennsylvania State University nor Temple University, which are state-related, have required the vaccines.

But CCP, which also is public, is moving ahead.

“We spoke with our legal team and our board of trustees and we decided to move forward with it,” Johnson said.

A number of private colleges in the region, including the University of Pennsylvania, Drexel, Villanova, Widener, Cabrini, Neumann, the College of New Jersey, and Princeton, also are requiring staff and students to be vaccinated.

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CCP said 93% of 470 faculty and staff who responded to a survey indicated they were already vaccinated.

Beginning Oct. 1, CCP will begin regular COVID-19 testing of faculty who have an exemption from the mandate and students who are not vaccinated, the college said.

After Jan. 18, students who are not fully vaccinated and do not have an exemption will be barred from campus and advised to take classes online, the college said.

The college said it will offer counseling to those who want to understand their options and noted that Vybe Urgent Care, 1500 Spring Garden St., is offering vaccines for free.

The college also will require masks for all students and staff and social distancing.