Mass. community colleges not requiring COVID-19 vaccinations for fall semester

But students are being urged to get shots.

David L. Ryan/Globe Staff
Bunker Hill Community College after a snow storm in February.

The state’s 15 community colleges don’t currently plan to require students to get vaccinated against COVID-19 before returning for the fall term, though that could change, according to the Massachusetts Association of Community Colleges. The group announced its fall plans in a statement Wednesday.

“Considerations for the fall semester continue to develop and are subject to change, but the community colleges are not contemplating COVID-19 vaccine mandates at this time,” the statement said. “It is essential that we meet the needs of all of our students, who are often from the communities hit hardest by this pandemic and facing disproportionate access to the COVID-19 vaccine.”

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And now, the association said, it’s “more important than ever to prioritize equity, and creating additional barriers for our students would go against our critically important mission of open access for all.” The group did, however, “strongly” urge students and staff to get vaccinated as soon as they can.

Multiple four-year colleges and universities in the region have announced plans to require students to get vaccinated before they come back in the fall, including Northeastern University and Emerson College.

Emerson announced the vaccine requirement Wednesday.

“We will require that all students studying on our campuses be vaccinated in order to attend the 2021 Fall Term,” Emerson President M. Lee Pelton wrote in an e-mail to students, faculty, and staff. “It is our expectation that all staff and faculty will be vaccinated before they return to campus.”

Northeastern had confirmed its vaxx requirement earlier this month.

“All students returning to Northeastern University’s campuses for the Fall 2021 term will be expected to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by the first day of classes,” officials said in an article posted on the university’s website earlier this month. “This announcement comes as the university advances its plan for a return to full-time, in-person learning in September while supporting the safety of Northeastern’s campuses and broader community.”

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Farther south, Brown University in Providence is also requiring students to get inoculated if they want to hit campus for in-person learning come fall.

“Our plans to loosen current limitations on in-person activities for Fall 2021 are based on achieving a high level of immunity among students and employees,” Christina Paxson, Brown’s president, wrote in a recent letter to the campus community.

Paxson said the university’s COVID-19 working group would provide a recommendation on June 1 on whether employees would have to be vaccinated. The Ivy League school said it’s looking forward to a “greater return to normal,” with a traditional two-semester model instead of the current “de-densified” three-semester program.

In a separate statement Wednesday, Holyoke Community College President Christina Royal acknowledged that community colleges in Massachusetts are taking a different approach to the question of a vaccine requirement.

“We are aware that some residential colleges have announced vaccine mandates for students before they return to campus,” Royal said. “As of this moment, HCC does not have such a policy for students who elect to take in-person classes in the fall. Since the beginning of the pandemic, we have followed health and safety guidelines established by the Centers for Disease Control and the state Dept. of Public Health, in consultation with our legal counsel, and we will continue to do so going forward.”

Material from prior Globe stories was used in this report.

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