Michigan universities, including GVSU, mull COVID-19 vaccine mandates

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ALLENDALE TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — Grand Valley State University is now among the schools in Michigan considering a COVID-19 vaccine mandate this fall.

Oakland University in metro Detroit announced this week that all students living on campus will be required to get the shots before they return in August. OU will allow students to opt out for religious or medical reasons.

Hope College in Holland and Michigan State University are also considering mandates for the fall semester.

“A vaccine requirement is something we are discussing and evaluating but no decisions have been made,” Dan Olsen with MSU’s communications department said. “With vaccine eligibility expanding to all Michigan adults 16 and older this week, we hope our students will be making appointments to get the vaccine. The more individuals who receive a vaccine, the safer our campus will be for everyone this fall.”

The Michigan Association of State Universities says it is likely an idea being tossed around by several institutions.

“The state universities have been talking about vaccines, how to have a safe in-person fall semester for quite some time now and it’s really going to be data-driven and it’s really going to depend on a lot of individual factors that are unique to each institution,” Bob Murphy of MASU said.

Murphy said those factors could include the location of the institution, where students are from, how populated campus is and how hard the area was hit by the pandemic.

Citing the fall surge and the current case spike, Grand Valley says it is in talks about a mandate, but also hasn’t made any decisions.

“Really right now it’s kind of a race between the vaccine and those cases that are rising. We’re hopeful and expect that the vaccine is going to win that battle so we’ll be much more ready to be back face to face,” GVSU Chief Financial Officer Greg Sanial, who has also been heading up the university’s Virus Action Team, said.

Some students who have gotten their shot say they’re not sure they would support a mandate.

“I think it’s good for them to push it. I don’t know about requiring it because I know for a lot of people it’s kind of controversial,” Bailee Barton, a junior studying accounting, said.

Senior Connor Briegel said he’s scheduled to get a COVID-19 vaccine this week and could see how university mandates may be helpful.

“I’m actually excited to get it. My sister actually just had twins and my other sister just had a baby as well, so I’m getting it so I can see them without having regret or worrying about potentially exposing them,” Briegel said. “I think it would be great if everyone got vaccinated. I just think everyone should make their own decision.”

The university pointed out a mandate wouldn’t come out of left field — there are other shots students are already required to have.

But it also said a mandate may not be necessary because so many people are already planning to get vaccinated.

“We’ve done surveys of our students, faculty and staff. (They) are overwhelmingly eager to get the vaccine so in many respects, we may not even have to require to get that vaccine,” Sanial said.

Sanial said GVSU’s top priority is the safety of its students and staff. Officials will make a final decision in the coming months.

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