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Northeastern says students must get vaccinated against COVID-19 to come back in the fall

Northeastern University announced that students are required to be vaccinated against the coronavirus, before returning to campus in the fall.
Northeastern University announced that students are required to be vaccinated against the coronavirus, before returning to campus in the fall.Pat Greenhouse/Globe Staff

Northeastern and Brown universities said Tuesday that students must be immunized against COVID-19 before they can return to campus in the fall, joining a growing number of colleges who are requiring the vaccine.

“All students returning to Northeastern University’s campuses for the Fall 2021 term will be expected to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by the first day of classes,” officials said in an article posted on the university’s website. “This announcement comes as the university advances its plan for a return to full-time, in-person learning in September while supporting the safety of Northeastern’s campuses and broader community.”

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Ken Henderson, chancellor and senior vice president for learning at Northeastern, said “we expect to be back fully in-person at regular occupancy, including fully in-person teaching, and normal occupancy in residence halls and dining facilities.”

Brown University is also requiring that all students doing in-person learning for the fall semester be vaccinated.

“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 university’s president, wrote Tuesday in a letter to the campus community.

Paxson said the university’s COVID-19 working group would provide a recommendation on June 1 on 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.

Last week, Roger Williams University in Bristol became one of the first universities in the nation to announce a vaccination requirement. Cornell and Rutgers universities have adopted similar mandates.

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.

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“I think every institution in Rhode Island is considering what their options are” on COVID-19 vaccines, Egan said. “Everyone is anxious to get back to full in-person [learning] with very limited social distancing.”

Other colleges are encouraging, but not mandating, that students receive the vaccine.

“We are strongly encouraging students to get vaccinated against COVID-19, and we want to do all that we can to support students and employees in getting vaccinated,” Suffolk University spokesman Greg Gatlin said by email. “The current vaccines are FDA-approved for emergency use only. We are currently discussing the approach we will take after the emergency-use designation is eliminated.”

The University of Massachusetts Lowell had no plans to require the vaccine but is “strongly encouraging all of our students to get the vaccine as soon as possible once they are eligible,” spokesman Jonathan Strunk via email. “In fact, we recently polled our students and more than 83 percent of them said they planned to be vaccinated by the start of the fall semester.”

At UMass-Amherst, no decision’s been made yet on vaccines, a spokesman said Tuesday. At Harvard, Giang T. Nguyen, executive director of Harvard University Health Services said in a recent note to the campus community that students should inform the school once they’re fully vaccinated.

“Sharing that you have been vaccinated with HUHS helps us to estimate the number of doses we will need as supplies increase. It will also help us understand the level of protection in our community, so we can make decisions about future policies and protocols,” Nguyen wrote in his note, which was posted to the Harvard website.

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Nguyen also stressed that students are still required to comply with protocols around face coverings, distancing, and other pandemic safety measures.

Boston College spokesman Jack Dunn said of a vaccine requirement that school officials “are considering the possibility but no decision has been made as of yet.” MIT has no current vaccine requirement, school officials said.

“MIT does not currently require that any members of our community receive a Covid-19 vaccine — but the leaders of the Institute and MIT Medical are strongly encouraging vaccination,” spokeswoman Kimberly Allen said by email. “These campus leaders, as well as the nation’s top medical experts, believe that the vaccine represents the best way for individuals to keep themselves, their families, and their communities safe from Covid-19.”

In September, Northeastern announced the dismissal of 11 first-year students after they were caught violating social distancing rules. The students were caught at the Westin Hotel, which was being used as a temporary dormitory, without masks and not social distancing, officials said.

“Cooperation and compliance with public health guidelines is absolutely essential. Those people who do not follow the guidelines … are putting everyone else at risk,” said Madeleine Estabrook, the university’s senior vice chancellor for student affairs, around the time the students were dismissed.



Travis Andersen can be reached at travis.andersen@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @TAGlobe. Brian Amaral can be reached at brian.amaral@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @bamaral44.