College COVID vaccines: Increasingly likely Florida students will be allowed to skip vaccination

8 On Your Side

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — The first Florida university that said it would require COVID-19 vaccines backed down and reversed course last week. Nova Southeastern University had said mandatory vaccinations were the way to return to normal, so what will campus life look like now?

8 On Your Side is looking at the broader impact of a new Florida law banning so-called vaccine passports. It goes into effect on July 1, 2021 but is already having an impact on not just public but also private institutions.

Citing Florida’s new law, Nova Southeastern University dropped its COVID-19 vaccine mandate last week.

The private institution, with a campus in Clearwater, was planning a return to full in-person learning. But now, according to its website, COVID-19 restrictions will not be rolled back “if NSU does not reach the voluntary threshold goal of 80%” vaccination.

“I’m already vaccinated out of personal choice,” NSU student physician Nabeel Karim said.

While desiring a return to normal this fall, NSU students – including Mr. Karim – were against the mandate.

“If somebody has a strong argument against getting the vaccine, they shouldn’t be forced to get it,” Karim said.

Right now, it’s a similar scene at college campuses across Florida. Like NSU, the University of South Florida is also just encouraging vaccination.

“Right now, we’re having checker board classrooms,” Dr. Jay Wolfson, who teaches public health at USF, said.

Come fall, the school will continue to test and monitor for COVID-19 while maintaining a hybrid approach.

“We’re doing a combination of online and in-classrooms and we’re giving some students and some professors the option of doing both,” Dr. Wolfson said. “It’s like putting out a forest fire, we go after where that forest fire is starting, we put out… even if it means closing some classes.”

The hope is that colleges and universities no longer need to shut down classrooms due to COVID-19 outbreaks.

Meanwhile, more than 300 campuses nationwide are still requiring the vaccine, according to a running tally by the Chronicle of Higher Education. Not a single one is in the Sunshine State.

So if you’re a college student in Florida, it’s increasingly likely you can choose to skip vaccination. But it comes with a price, for now, as the mitigation measures are here to stay.

Here’s the full statement from Nova Southeastern University:

“As you know, Nova Southeastern University was hoping for the ability to require COVID-19 vaccinations where possible to further protect the NSU Florida community. However, due to a new Florida law, the university is unable to maintain such a policy. NSU Florida always follows the letter and spirit of the law and we must do that as the law goes into effect on July 1, 2021.

Therefore, we are NOT requiring vaccinations for NSU Florida students, faculty, and staff, as was announced back on April 1, before the legislation was passed. Nonetheless, with additional safeguards in place, NSU Florida has its best opportunity to return to normalcy this fall.

You can obtain additional information from the full May 5, 2021 NSU Florida Presidential Communication ONLINE.”

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