Maryland public universities to require COVID-19 vaccine

BALTIMORE (AP) — Maryland’s public higher education system will require that students, faculty and staff returning to campuses in the fall be vaccinated against COVID-19.

University System of Maryland Chancellor Jay Perman announced the decision in a statement Friday. The system will allow appropriate exemptions for medical or religious reasons, the statement said.

“If we examine the data — and there is an extraordinary accumulation of data — we see that the risk of vaccines is very low, whereas the risk of COVID is very high. And that risk is increasingly falling on young people,” Perman said.

Todd Holden is president of the AFSCME union local 1072 that represents 3,300 members at the University of Maryland College Park. The union helps fill positions from accountants to HVAC maintenance supervisors.

Asked about the decision to require students, faculty and staff to be vaccinated for return to campus in the fall, Holden said, “Generally speaking, we think that this is good news. AFSCME both nationally and in Maryland has said for a long time that following the advice of public health experts and public health professionals is going to be the thing that gets us through this pandemic.”

Holden said there are other issues the union’s concerned with, like allowing for continued telework for some positions and other “work-life balance” issues.

Morgan State University is not part of the University System of Maryland campuses, but is one of the state’s HBCU’s that has also decided to require students, faculty and staff be vaccinated for return to campus in August.

Student Government Association President Alex Freeman was asked about the decision and in a text said he’s personally in favor of the policy, adding, “We can’t have a fully open or ‘back to normal’ campus community if everyone isn’t vaccinated.”

The announcement came a day after the 10-campus University of California system and the 23-campus California State University system said they intend to require vaccines in the fall, in the largest announcement of its kind in American higher education.

Across the country, colleges have been divided on the issue. Some private universities have recently told students they must get vaccinated, but other schools are leaving the decision to students.

The Maryland system said it would also continue with other mitigation strategies like pre-arrival COVID-19 testing, surveillance testing and public health interventions like masking.

The system includes 12 universities and three regional higher education centers serving about 135,000 undergraduate and about 41,000 graduate students, according to its website.

WTOP’s Kate Ryan contributed to this report.

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