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Penn will require faculty and staff, along with students, to be vaccinated

Penn was a frontrunner in announcing last month that all of its health system employees would be required to be vaccinated by Sept. 1.

University of Pennsylvania campus
University of Pennsylvania campusRead moreMichael Bryant / File Photograph

The University of Pennsylvania intends to have a fully vaccinated campus in the fall.

The Ivy League university announced Tuesday it would require all faculty, staff, and postdoctoral trainees to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by Aug. 1. It previously announced that students would need the vaccination for the fall semester unless they had medical or religious exceptions.

Penn was a front-runner in announcing last month that all of its health system employees would be required to be vaccinated by Sept. 1.

“The single most important measure each of us can take to protect ourselves along with those on campus and in our surrounding communities is to get vaccinated against COVID-19,” Penn leaders said in an announcement to the campus Tuesday.

» READ MORE: Rutgers becomes first college in the region, possibly the nation, to require students to get COVID-19 vaccinations

Asked what would happen if students or employees failed to comply with the requirement, Penn said they will have to get a weekly COVID-19 test and will be subject to other guidance from the city department of health.

More than 400 colleges and universities have said they will require students and/or employees to be vaccinated against the coronavirus, according to the Chronicle of Higher Education, which has kept a running tally. Brown and Columbia are the only other Ivy League universities that have said they will require both students and employees to be vaccinated, according to the Chronicle’s list. The others, including Princeton, have said they will require students to be vaccinated.

No other local colleges on the Chronicle’s list, except for the College of New Jersey, has said it will require employees to have the vaccinations. Other local colleges that will require students to have vaccinations include: Thomas Jefferson, Drexel, Bryn Mawr, Bucknell, Franklin & Marshall, Gettysburg, Muhlenberg, Dickinson, Gwynedd Mercy, Haverford, Lafayette, Lehigh, Rider, Rowan, Rutgers, Stockton, Swarthmore, the University of Delaware, and the University of the Sciences.

» READ MORE: Penn health system takes the lead in requiring employees to be vaccinated

Rutgers was the first in the region and possibly the nation to announce in March that it would require the vaccines for students.

Rowan is offering students incentives, including $500 toward their fall course registration. But students can opt out for medical or religious reasons or a simple statement of declaration that they object for reasons, such as that the vaccines still have only emergency approval, said spokesperson Joe Cardona. He said the university didn’t require employees to get the vaccine because the school follows state guidelines and the state hasn’t required its employees to get it.

Some colleges have been reluctant to require the shots of students or employees and instead have chosen to strongly encourage it.

“We think an incentives-based approach offers the best, most pragmatic way to encourage high rates of vaccination,” said Lawrence Lokman, a spokesperson for Pennsylvania State University.

Penn State on Tuesday rolled out its incentive plan, including drawings that offer cash prizes of $1,000, $100 gift cards to Barnes & Noble, and footballs autographed by coach James Franklin. Separate drawings will be held for students and employees, the university said. Employees and students must provide proof of vaccination to be eligible, the university said.

Since the announcement, more than 1,300 people uploaded vaccination information, including 482 employees, Lokman said.

The Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education, which oversees 14 state universities, has not required the vaccines either. Nationally, some state universities, such as California, Colorado, and Oregon have decided to make the vaccines a requirement, according to the Chronicle’s list. Indiana did, too, but on Tuesday announced that it would no longer be a requirement and instead optional for employees and students to submit proof of vaccination, according to the Associated Press.

Temple University hasn’t decided. Temple’s faculty senate and union are urging the university to move toward a requirement. A steering committee of the faculty senate passed a resolution that would require proof of the vaccines for all faculty, students, and staff with exemptions for those with “medical conditions, religious belief or strong moral or ethical conviction.”

Will Jordan, president of the Temple Association of University Professionals, the faculty union, which has supported the senate resolution, said a requirement is necessary.

“We really do want to come back to campus in the fall, and we want to come back as safe as we can,” he said. “Even though all the signs are pointing upwards, COVID isn’t over.”

Penn is the largest private employer in Philadelphia. More than 26,500 undergraduate and graduate students attend the university and there are 18,000 faculty and staff.

Several faculty members said they were pleased to see Penn require the vaccines.

“They’re doing what they have to do to keep everybody safe,” said Camille Z. Charles, a professor of sociology, Africana studies & education. “In the spirit of fairness if we are requiring the students to be vaccinated, we should be required to be vaccinated as well. I’m glad they have the courage to mandate it.”

Employees and students are being asked to enter their vaccine information on a Penn website. Those who are not fully vaccinated will be required to continue to participate in daily symptom checks in addition to a weekly COVID-19 test, and will need to wear a mask indoors, the university said.

Penn last week lifted outdoor mask-wearing requirements for those who are fully vaccinated.

When Penn announced that health system employees would be required to get the vaccine, the system said more than 33,000 out of 47,000 already were fully immunized.