Wells College will require employees and students to get the COVID-19 vaccine before the start of the fall semester.
The private college in Aurora is encouraging staff and students to get the single-dose Johnson & Johnson or the second dose of the Moderna or Pfizer vaccine by Aug. 1. Since the vaccines are fully effective after two weeks, individuals will be vaccinated by Aug. 15 — prior to the beginning of fall classes.
Wells President Jonathan Gibralter announced the mandate in a statement to students on Thursday.
"I strongly believe that, as a residential college, the only path for Wells to return to normalcy is through the herd immunity provided through vaccination efforts," he said.
The college in Cayuga County joins others, including Cornell University and Syracuse University, that are requiring vaccinations for the fall semester. The State University of New York, which oversees Cayuga Community College and other public colleges and universities, will mandate vaccinations if at least one of the vaccines, likely Pfizer, receives full Food and Drug Administration approval before the fall.
Wells College explained that it established the requirement "with the expectation that the vaccines will receive full FDA approval before the fall semester begins." The decision was also based on the recommendation of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the American College Health Association and other health authorities that are urging individuals, especially those in congregate living areas, to get vaccinated.
There will be exemptions for medical reasons and religious beliefs, according to the college.
Colleges and universities view the vaccine as a way to resume normal operations after many shifted to remote learning during the pandemic. The vaccinations could also prevent disruptions in learning due to positive COVID-19 cases and exposures.
During the spring semester, Wells reported 20 positive cases — 13 on-campus and seven off-campus — out of nearly 6,300 tests.
"We were more successful than most colleges and universities in preventing the coronavirus from becoming widespread on campus during the past year," Gibralter said. "That said, Wells College is designed primarily as a residential, in-person learning community, and we know that the only way we will be able to safely resume all aspects of that experience is through widespread vaccination efforts."
Politics reporter Robert Harding can be reached at (315) 282-2220 or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @robertharding.