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Augustana requiring students, staff to share vaccine status ahead of fall semester

Students and staff don't have the get the vaccine, but they will be required to disclose their decision to the college.

ROCK ISLAND, Ill. — Leadership at Augustana College announced that they are not requiring students and staff to get vaccinated against COVID-19, but they are requiring everyone to share their vaccine status with the college.

This includes everyone within the Augustana community: students, staff and faculty. 

RELATED: US colleges divided over requiring student COVID-19 vaccinations

In an online briefing Thursday, July 8, Dr. Wes Brooks, the vice president and dean of student life on campus, and President Steven Bahls encouraged everyone to get vaccinated against the virus before classes resume on August 30.  This encouragement has been pushed by the Center for Disease Control. 

"It is the best way to protect the Augustana College community," said President Bahls.

He said fall 2021 plans include in-person classes, social activities, celebrations and more. 

"We hope that every student is able to enjoy all benefits of an on campus learning and living experience," he said. "And for those who are vaccinated, you will have more freedom and opportunities on this campus."

Students, staff and faculty will be required to turn in their vaccine status no later than August 1.  

Dr. Brooks explained that those who are vaccinated will complete an online form and share a photo of their vaccine card or other documentation that proves they are vaccinated.  There will be another option for those who are vaccinated but have no vaccine card.

For those who are unvaccinated and plan to remain unvaccinated, they will need to fill out the form to reflect that information. 

A link to the online form was expected to be sent out Thursday to Augustana email addresses.

"Every student employee's vaccination status will be treated carefully and as confidential information," said Dr. Brooks.

The vaccine status information will be used to look at the campus as a whole, to help determine whether they are nearing herd immunity as a community or if they need to implement more stringent mitigations. 

Vaccine status will also be used to match roommates, should students be interested in that option. 

Other colleges across the nation, including Rutgers, Brown, Cornell and Northeastern decided that students must get vaccinated before returning to campus in the fall. The goal is to achieve herd immunity on their campuses, which leaders say would allow them to loosen spacing restrictions in classrooms and dorms.

It's not unusual for colleges and universities to require students to be immunized against some preventable diseases.  Augustana requires students to have vaccines, including MMR, Tdap, and meningitis. 

At Augustana, unvaccinated members of the community are asked to continue wearing a mask indoors at all times, and outdoors when social distancing is not possible. 

In addition, regular COVID-19 surveillance testing will be conducted during the fall semester.

As of July 8, the college has no plans to offer hybrid learning options, and all classes will be in-person. 

Augustana College's full COVID-19 guidelines as well as safety plans are available here