Dear OSU Faculty and Staff,

I write to update you on the university’s consideration of whether a COVID-19 vaccination will be a requirement within Oregon State University next academic year.

After extensive analysis and consultation with public health experts and authorities, OSU has decided to maintain its position of not requiring proof of vaccination for fall 2021 at this time. We do not currently believe requiring proof of vaccination would aid in our shared objective to promote trust and adoption of vaccines. Nor do we believe that such a requirement will increase appreciably the share of OSU community members obtaining vaccinations beyond what can be achieved through education and expanding access. In Benton, Lincoln, Multnomah and Deschutes counties, CDC data indicate that over a third of adults are already vaccinated, even before the vaccines became available to all groups on April 19. The trend toward widespread vaccination is strong, and we thank you for doing your part.

We recognize that some colleges and universities have come to a different conclusion. OSU made its decision based on consideration of medical and public health concerns; the need to balance personal rights and responsibilities among different communities; the FDA-determined status of vaccines; and the feasibility of administration and enforcement.

Several points informed our decision:

  • The Oregon Health Authority has not recommended implementing a requirement.
  • National survey data indicate wide variation in the confidence in COVID-19 vaccines among different population groups. Under these circumstances, focusing on education and access will prove a more effective way of building vaccine confidence and participation.
  • State and federal law require OSU to provide for both medical and religious exemptions. Additionally, Oregon law prohibits OSU from requiring the vaccine for certain populations like health care or law enforcement workers. Accordingly, many members of the university community might be fully compliant, but not vaccinated. And it would not be evident who has been vaccinated versus who has been permitted an exemption.
  • It is currently unclear how the federal Emergency Use Authorization status of currently available vaccines affects widespread, blanket requirements. Requiring large populations to obtain a new emergency vaccine poses questions of fairness and complications around keeping up with the changing status of vaccines as scientific evidence continues to emerge.
  • Currently, there is no coordinated and authenticated means of proving someone has received a COVID-19 vaccination in the United States or elsewhere. Additionally, students, faculty and staff coming from other countries may have received vaccines not approved in the U.S.
  • It is unknown how long vaccination protection will last, likely creating a significant challenge in tracking the timing of vaccination or lapses in booster shots to maintain immunization status.

With those issues in mind, OSU believes that the best tools to promote and protect public health are education of the benefits of vaccines, expanding access to vaccines, and continued adherence to protective measures like wearing face coverings. We will continue to evaluate possible appropriate uses of a vaccine requirement in the future, as well as for employees and students participating in specific higher-risk environments.

Sincerely,

 

Dan Larson
Vice Provost for Student Affairs
OSU Coronavirus Response Coordinator

Date: 
April 21, 2021