Indiana University announced Friday that all students, faculty and staff will be required to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 before the fall semester.
IU said students, faculty and staff will need to be vaccinated “in order to interact with the IU community in any way,” including “being on campus, taking or teaching courses, being employed and/or participating in activities.”
The requirement mandates students, faculty and staff get their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine by July 1 and a second dose (if necessary) by Aug. 15 or when they first return to campus, whichever is earlier.
“This new requirement will allow the university to lift most restrictions on masking and physical distancing this fall,” IU said in a statement. “Knowing that the vast majority of the IU community is vaccinated is the only way the university can confidently return to in-person classes, more in-person events and a more typical university experience.”
Dr. Lana Dbeibo, the director of vaccine initiatives with IU’s Medical Response Team, said that this decision was driven by multiple factors.
“We took science, public health and medicine into account and our goal of transitioning back to normal,” said Dbeibo, an assistant professor of infectious diseases.
Dbeibo said the policy is both a way to continue to protect the community and an important step in transitioning back into a sense of normalcy.
“We have been working on all the policies to make sure our community stays safe during the pandemic,” Dbeibo said. “We knew they were temporary measures. We can’t live our entire lives like that. That is not something we wanted to continue.”
Dbeibo said she has had to talk to patients about vaccine hesitancy and acknowledges some people hold various fears about receiving a dose.
“People have different reasons to make them hesitant,” Dbeibo said. “I try to get to the bottom of the hesitancy, whether it’s how they were developed, how safe they are, if they have side effects, if they cause problems with pregnancy. I try to address it with what we know about the science.”
Still, only a handful of people will be allowed exemptions. The university said the exemption-request process will be available by June 15, with exemptions “strictly limited to a very narrow set of criteria, including medical exemptions, and documented and significant religious exemptions.”
The university said there will be “strong consequences” for those who don’t meet the vaccine requirement and don’t receive an exemption. Students will have their class registrations canceled and access to IU systems and services terminated. They will not be allowed to participate in any on-campus activity.
“Faculty and staff who choose not to meet the requirement will no longer be able to be employed by Indiana University,” IU said. “Working remotely and not meeting the COVID-19 vaccine requirement is not an option.”
Michael A. McRobbie, president of Indiana University, said the mandate will ensure normal operations.
“Requiring the COVID-19 vaccine among our students, faculty and staff continues to extend the university’s comprehensive and thoughtful approach to managing and mitigating the pandemic on our campuses and brings us one step closer to making a ‘return to normal’ a reality,” he said in a written statement.
Through self-reporting, IU estimates that 50% of students, faculty and staff have received at least one dose of the vaccine. Self-reporting will continue through an online form available to members of the IU community. Dbeibo said that 50% is an encouraging number and shows that IU is making strides toward a safer campus for the fall.
“This will be our weapon to transition us to allow people to experience their college life,” Dbeibo said.
IU had spring semester enrollment of more than 83,000 students at seven campuses, with more than 40,000 of those enrolled in Bloomington.
Indiana isn’t the first university in the state with a COVID vaccine mandate. The University of Notre Dame notified students last month that they must be vaccinated to attend school. It notified employees this week that all faculty and staff must be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by Aug. 2, three weeks before the fall semester begins.