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Brown University will require students to get COVID-19 vaccine

All undergraduate, graduate, and medical students doing in-person learning in the fall 2021 semester must be vaccinated, the university said.

Brown University in Providence, R.I.Jonathan Wiggs/Globe Staff

PROVIDENCE — Brown University will require COVID-19 vaccines for all undergraduate, graduate, and medical students doing in-person learning in the fall 2021 semester, the university said Tuesday.

The announcement comes a few days after Roger Williams University in Bristol became the first in the state to say it would require its students working and learning on-campus to be vaccinated against COVID-19 in the fall 2021 semester. Both universities said they’d give medical and religious exemptions.

They join are part of a growing list of colleges around the country, including Northeastern University in Boston, to announce that they’ll require vaccines as schools look toward a fall 2021 semester with many fewer restrictions.


“Our plans to loosen current limitations on in-person activities for Fall 2021 are based on achieving a high level of immunity among students and employees,” Christina Paxson, the president of Brown, said in a letter to the campus community Tuesday.

Paxson said the university’s COVID-19 working group would provide a recommendation on June 1 about whether employees would have to be vaccinated. The Ivy League school said it’s looking forward to a “greater return to normal,” with a traditional two-semester model instead of the current “de-densified” three-semester program.

Dr. Ashish Jha, the dean of the Brown School of Public Health, who has become a leading voice through the pandemic, quickly praised the move.

“This is the right call,” he said in a message posted on Twitter. “Vaccines get us our lives back.”

Rhode Island is planning to make all people age 16 and older eligible for COVID-19 vaccines on April 19.

Ioannis Miaoulis, the president of Roger Williams University, said in a message last week to students there that COVID will still be a health issue in the fall, and that the university will still have some modified level of masking and physical distancing — as well as a COVID testing program. With the move last week, Roger Williams became one of the first universities in the nation to announce a COVID vaccination requirement.


“Whatever it will look like, I am energized by a fall semester with more options and fewer restrictions,” Miaoulis said.

Dan Egan, the president of the Association of Independent Colleges and Universities of Rhode Island, noted that college students in the state are already required to have other vaccinations, including the measles, mumps, and rubella vaccine.

“I think every institution in Rhode Island is considering what their options are” on COVID-19 vaccines, Egan said.

If more than 80 percent of people on campus are vaccinated against COVID-19, there would be more options, Egan said, including doing away with some social distancing requirements and mandating masks only in more limited settings, like the classroom.

“Everyone is anxious to get back to full in-person [learning] with very limited social distancing,” Egan said.

Brian Amaral can be reached at Follow him @bamaral44.