Md. university system will consider mandating COVID-19 vaccinations; no date for decision yet

The University System of Maryland’s Board of Regents voted Friday to give Chancellor Jay Perman the authority to develop a COVID-19 vaccination policy for the fall.

Perman said any decision would come only after getting input from the university presidents across the University System of Maryland, but at Friday’s meeting, Perman made his position on the issue clear, saying, “Widespread vaccination is how we’ll have a fall semester that resembles our pre-pandemic normal.”

Perman said he understood that some are reluctant to get vaccinated, and that the pause of the Johnson & Johnson vaccines may have “exacerbated” concerns.

But, Perman told the Board of Regents, “I believe that vaccination is necessary, and that vaccination is especially necessary on college campuses.”

The University System of Maryland includes 12 university and college campuses, including the University of Maryland College Park, Bowie State and Frostburg State, as well as three education centers.

Towson University President Kim Schatzel said her office has gotten “dozens and dozens” of emails, texts and calls about whether students will have to be vaccinated against COVID-19. She said she was concerned about being able to answer that question soon, as application deadlines loom and families are making choices about the fall.

If the system decides to require COVID-19 vaccinations before students, staff and faculty return in the fall, Board of Regents member Ike Leggett asked, “What is our ability to enforce and ensure compliance?”

Perman answered, “All of us that have been vaccinated, as you know, have a card — we will need to depend on some sort of documentation.”

UMBC President Freeman Hrabowski, a member of Gov. Hogan’s #GoVaxMD effort to encourage vaccinations, voiced his support for mandates.

“As the Chancellor said, we should be following the science, and the science is definitely saying mandatory vaccinations,” Hrabowski said.

Former Maryland Health Secretary Robert Neall, now serving as a member of the Board of Regents, said he looked forward to hearing from Perman once university presidents have weighed in, saying any decision “will be guided, I’m sure, by science and good sense.”

Nate Sansom, student member of the Board of Regents, said a recent informal poll among student leadership showed that students were “overwhelmingly in favor” of vaccination requirements, with exceptions carved out for medical or religious concerns.

No date was given for a final decision, but a statement from university system spokesman Mike Lurie read in part, “The USM Board of Regents has now authorized the Chancellor to work with system presidents to develop policies, including potential requirements, with respect to vaccinations, but no determination has been made at this time.”

The statement continued, “We continue, however, to encourage all USM students, faculty and staff to receive the vaccine when presented with the opportunity as individual state guidelines allow. ”

Within hours of the meeting, University of College Park President Dr. Darryll Pines issued a tweet showing him getting a COVID-19 shot and adding, “Terps, you’re next!”

More Coronavirus News

Looking for more information? D.C., Maryland and Virginia are each releasing more data every day. Visit their official sites here: Virginia | Maryland | D.C.

Kate Ryan

As a member of the award-winning WTOP News, Kate is focused on state and local government. Her focus has always been on how decisions made in a council chamber or state house affect your house. She's also covered breaking news, education and more.

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