I write to share with you today that, after careful review of the science, consultation with public health officials and great consideration for the health of every Huskie, NIU is adding the COVID-19 vaccine to our list of required vaccinations for students taking in-person courses or living on campus for Fall 2021. The science continues to show that the vaccines are safe and effective in not only protecting against COVID-19 but in reducing its severity and limiting its transmission. The benefits to our students’ health and well-being, as well as the communities in which they live, learn and work, are clear – and warrant that we take this action.
Students can request exemption from the vaccine requirement for documented health or religious reasons. Additionally, while the three COVID-19 vaccines available in the United States are under an FDA Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) exemption, we will allow students to request personal exemptions. Students receiving the personal exemption will become subject to the vaccination requirement after the EUA designations convert to full FDA approval. Students who are not vaccinated will be required to undergo weekly COVID-19 surveillance testing and to wear face masks in shared indoor spaces on campus.
Making this decision was not quick or easy, nor will it be embraced by all. There are members of our community who are reluctant to get vaccinated because of concerns about side effects, mistrust of our health systems or a lack of understanding the science involved in creating the vaccine. I did not hesitate to get vaccinated because I am convinced that facts show the vaccine is safe, effective and worthwhile. I encourage you to learn more about the safety and efficacy of the vaccines from experts and medical professionals with diverse backgrounds and expertise.
Although the university is not requiring that employees receive COVID-19 vaccines, the vaccines are widely available and we strongly encourage that you get vaccinated. Additionally, beginning in mid-August, all employees will be added to the weekly surveillance testing pool. Employees can be excused from testing if they have been fully vaccinated or if their supervisors and division leaders verify that those employees are working entirely remotely for the fall semester. To be exempt from the testing pool, please complete the proof of vaccine form and upload an image of your vaccine card. The process for verifying full remote work will be explained in the next few weeks.
NIU joins a growing list of colleges and universities that have made similar decisions. Requiring the vaccine will help protect our entire community and support our Huskies being able to fully resume the more “normal” university experience with in-person courses, activities and events that they need and want.
Lisa C. Freeman, D.V.M., PhD.
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