GW’s top public health official signaled her support for requiring students to be vaccinated for COVID-19 to return to campus this fall, as officials continue weighing reopening metrics for next semester.
Milken Institute School of Public Health Dean Lynn Goldman, who advises administrators on the University’s COVID-19 response, said at a Faculty Senate meeting Friday that a vaccine requirement would make it “easier” to manage classrooms and for students to have a more normal campus experience. University President Thomas LeBlanc said administrators are continuing “active discussions” but have not made a final decision about requiring vaccinations.
“My professional opinion is that we should move in that direction,” Goldman said. “That’s certainly for the students, that it could make an enormous difference in their health and wellbeing as well as their ability to have more normal social experiences as college students.”
She said she has heard from parents and Milken faculty who are advocating for a vaccine requirement for students and faculty.
“I’m hearing also from parents that they would be more comfortable if they knew the professors also were immunized,” Goldman said. “I think that we’re going to be eager to hear from the faculty about their feelings about these issues, but I believe we have a much better chance of having a full University experience for our students and much more ability for our faculty and staff to feel confident about the safety of the campus if we have everyone possible [vaccinated].”
She added that officials are also discussing accommodations for members of the University community who have medical exemptions for vaccines. Officials currently allow for medical and religious exemptions for other required vaccines.
“We haven’t yet figured out among especially the staff who is going to be teleworking over time, who will be in person,” Goldman said. “If people are teleworking, there might be a different consideration.”
LeBlanc said at the meeting that he regularly consults Goldman as officials make pandemic-related decisions, and he is continuing to gather input from members of the GW community. He added that officials will not force students to be vaccinated against their will, but there would be “consequences” for refusing to do so if a requirement is implemented.
“We are doing the best we can to be guided by the science on this one,” LeBlanc said. “Any decision we make will be somewhat controversial to some subset of our community. We just want to make the best decision possible for our community so that we can safely bring people back to campus in the fall.”
Isha Trivedi, Jared Gans, Jarrod Wardwell and Yankun Zhao contributed reporting.