ST PAUL, Minn. — The University of St. Thomas will not require students or staff to get the COVID-19 vaccine in order to be on campus this fall.
In an email sent out to members of the St. Thomas community on Wednesday, the school announced that while it is strongly encouraging people to get vaccinated, the vaccine will not be mandatory. The move comes two days after the University of Minnesota made a similar announcement.
The university will implement an incentive program and promote "increased access" to the vaccine for students and staff. Students and staff will also be required to confidentially report their vaccination status to the university before the fall semester.
"At this time, St. Thomas has chosen to not require COVID-19 vaccines in order to learn or work on campus," a school spokesperson said in the email. "This decision was made after months of lengthy discussions with various university stakeholders, consultations with leading health care experts (including our Morrison Family College of Health advisory board), and input from organizations such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Minnesota Department of Health (MDH)."
The university is not ruling out a future mandate, and some activities like studying abroad or clinical placements may require vaccination.
The incentive program announced by the university will include gift cards, discounts on study abroad and tuition, and professional development funds or extra time off for faculty and staff.
The Center for Well-Being at the University of St. Thomas will offer both Moderna and Johnson & Johnson shots Mondays and Tuesdays during the summer. Students and staff can schedule appointments through the myHealthPortal.
As far as the required reporting, the university says it needs an "accurate count of vaccinated community members" in order to plan for the fall. People who were vaccinated within Minnesota should already be on the record thanks to the statewide immunization information system. Anyone vaccinated in a different state or country has to upload their information to the myHealthPortal.
"The COVID-19 vaccines represent our best chance for a return to normal," the email said. "We want as many of our community members as possible to get their shots! We also know there is a wide range of opinions on this matter; after carefully weighing and debating our options, we have chosen a path we believe will lead to a greater number of vaccinated community members on campus. We will continue to monitor our progress and make adjustments as needed."