The University System of Maryland announced Friday that all students, faculty and staff on all of its 12 campuses must get a COVID-19 vaccine this fall.
USM Chancellor Jay A. Perman said his decision was based on recommendations of a workgroup including university-based public health and infectious disease experts, USM presidents and government councils representing students, faculty and staff.
He described the COVID vaccine mandate as the “most effective strategy” and “best tool” for a safe return to campus.
“This mandate was not undertaken lightly,” Perman said in a statement.
COVID testing before students come back to campus will still be required and surveillance testing and symptom monitoring will continue thought the year, he continued. Around 15,000 students are living on USM campuses now, but Perman said he expects that number to more than double in the fall, especially with more students living in neighborhoods around campuses.
Perman said the university system will comply with all federal and state laws in granting appropriate exemptions from vaccination for medical or religious reasons.
He also allayed concerns of those who are hesitant to take the vaccine, asserting the safety of the current COVID-19 vaccines.
“We have good, reliable, and more-than-ample data on the safety and efficacy of these vaccines. I’m saying we need to rely on that data, and act in the best interest of our students, employees, and neighbors,” he said.
It is important to sustain vaccine uptake, not only for herd immunity, but also for a faster return to normalcy and alleviating mental health challenges from the past year, he said.
“This is what we want. We want students to have these bonding opportunities. We want them to have a college experience that breeds a sense of belonging. And if that’s our goal — to have students (a lot of students) safely back on campus this fall, then we have to do everything we can to protect that safety,” Perman said. “This health we seek to safeguard includes mental health, which has been significantly challenged this year.”