MU to Require Vaccinations

We have had a dramatic increase in COVID cases among students since we all returned less than two weeks ago. Consequently, and after extensive deliberation, consultation, and guidance from health officials, I have decided that effective October 15, Methodist University students will be required to show proof of full vaccination against COVID-19 in order to live on campus, attend classes, and participate in MU activities and events on campus.   

My decision follows this week’s approval of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and is in keeping with the safety-first objective MU has stressed for more than a year. The decision also is in alignment with MU’s announcements since last fall that we would likely move to this requirement upon FDA approval.

Expecting this approval, we have been strongly recommending vaccinations for months, and we know the FDA approval is a confirmation many students and families have been hoping for before getting the vaccine. FDA approval means the vaccines have been scientifically shown to be safe and effective and have proven to be our strongest defense against this disease and to give us our optimal opportunity to continue on-campus residential living, activities, and in-person classes. While it may or may not eliminate the need for masks (also a great defense), this will eliminate the need for students to be tested weekly. 

With the Delta variant of the virus proving to be as contagious as chicken pox, cases are rising at an alarming rate in the state, in the city, and at MU. There also has been a dramatic increase in hospitalizations across the state, with many hospital ICUs at or near capacity – statewide, hospitalizations are up 250% since the beginning of August, and over 90% of those hospitalized are unvaccinated. Given these dire circumstances, vaccination is our best chance to “save the semester” on our campus and to keep everyone healthy.

The October 15 date provides students the time necessary to be fully vaccinated and remain on campus. MU will host free vaccine clinics for students, faculty, and staff this week (Aug. 26) and again next month (Sept. 16) in the Berns Student Center, and both clinics will offer the Johnson & Johnson and Pfizer vaccines. Participation in the vaccine clinics will be considered an “excused” absence from class, and students can work with their faculty to make up any missed work. Please get vaccinated now, if not for yourself, then do it to protect someone you love. If you’re already vaccinated, it’s very important that you upload your proof of vaccination.

The J&J vaccine requires just one shot, and eliminates the necessity for weekly testing immediately. The Pfizer vaccine is given in two doses (a student may receive one on Aug. 26, continue weekly testing, and then the second dose on Sept. 16). Being fully vaccinated with the J&J, Pfizer, or Moderna vaccine (also two shots) fulfills the MU requirement. 

Additional details on the free vaccine clinics (you just need a valid ID, and there will be $25 gift cards for everyone getting vaccinated) were sent to the MU community earlier this week. It’s also available on our Forward Together site. Medical and/or religious exemption requests may be filed through MU Health Services for consideration. An announcement is forthcoming about vaccination requirements for faculty and staff.

Please continue to utilize the Forward Together site as a resource, as more detail will be shared soon, but if you have any additional immediate questions you can reach out to forward@methodist.edu and staff can direct you to the information you seek. The safety of our students is a serious matter. It remains our No. 1 priority, so I am committed to making the important decisions that best protect our community. This move to mandatory vaccines, based on consistent input from health authorities, is the best option at this time.

Sincerely,

Stanley T. Wearden, Ph.D.
President