MONTPELIER — Students arriving at the University of Vermont for the fall semester must be vaccinated against COVID-19, even if the vaccines have not yet been given final approval by the Food and Drug Administration, officials said Friday.
The move was endorsed by the executive committee of the university's board of trustees.
The decision goes one step further than the requirement announced by the school last month that vaccines would be required only if any of the three vaccines in use now in the United States had been approved by the FDA.
UVM Vice President for Operations and Public Safety Gary Derr said when that decision was made last month it was expected at least one of the three vaccines would have been given final approval by now.
"We decided it was important not to wait for that full FDA approval to assure a safe and healthy fall semester for our students, for our faculty and staff and the Burlington community," Derr said.
Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger said Friday he welcomed the requirement.
"Having the entire student body inoculated will help keep community infection rates at very low levels this upcoming fall and winter," Weinberger said in a statement.
The move comes as the delta variant of COVID-19 is causing increases in virus cases across the country.
As of Friday, about half of the 13,500 students from across the country and the world expected to arrive in late August have provided proof of vaccination, including about 1,000 in the last week.
UVM staff will not be required to be vaccinated. Derr said that's because the counties around Burlington where most employees come from all have high vaccination rates.
UVM will allow for religious and health exemptions from the vaccine requirement.
Unvaccinated students who arrive on campus next month will not be denied admission to the school, although they will be prevented from registering for the second semester.
Students who are unvaccinated will be required to be tested for COVID-19 at least weekly and they will be required to wear masks.
For international students, UVM will accept any vaccine approved by the World Health Organization.
Some of the international students who will be arriving might not have had the opportunity to be vaccinated in their home countries. In those cases, the school will help them make arrangements to be vaccinated in Vermont, Derr said.
"I think its going to be overwhelmingly positively accepted," Derr said. "I think that out students are anxious to return to a normal campus and not have to go through the restrictions and requirements that they did last year. I think our employees want the same."
On Friday, the Vermont Health Department reported 22 new cases of the virus that causes COVID-19, bringing the statewide total since the pandemic began to 24,550.
There were three patients hospitalized with COVID-19, including one in intensive care.
The number of deaths remains at 258.
The seven-day rolling average of daily new cases in Vermont has risen over the past two weeks from 3.86 new cases a day on June 30 to 12 new cases a day on Wednesday.