Rutgers University is requiring students attending classes in person this fall to be vaccinated against Covid-19.
It is among the first US universities to make such a mandate as schools begin preparing for a return to campus life after a year of remote or hybrid learning due to the pandemic.
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"In support of Rutgers' commitment to health and safety for all members of its community, the University will be updating its Immunization Requirements for Students to include the COVID-19 vaccine," Rutgers' leadership wrote in a message to the university community on Thursday.
"This health policy update means that, with limited exceptions, all students planning to attend in the Fall 2021 semester must be fully vaccinated."
Students may request an exemption for medical or religious reasons, the university said. Otherwise, proof of vaccination will be required for all students attending in-person classes.
Hoping for a 'sense of normalcy on campus'
Arielle Dublin, vice president of the Rutgers University Student Assembly, said she supports the school's decision.
Dublin, a fourth-year student, served on the university's "restart committee," comprised of faculty, administrators and students, which made suggestions to Antonio Calcado, executive vice president and chief operating officer at Rutgers.
"I think at the end of the day, the goal is to have students come back and have a sense of normalcy on campus," Dublin told CNN. "And to really have that sense of normalcy on campus, you need to recognize that we have to take care of our bodies and make sure everyone around us is OK as well."
Is requiring the vaccine legal?
Universities, like certain employers, may require immunizations, and the Covid-19 vaccine is really no exception, said Renee Mattei Myers, an attorney in Pennsylvania.
"They can mandate it, but they have to have processes in place for exceptions," Myers said, for example, for medical and religious reasons.
Can your boss require you to get vaccinated?
Some experts say it remains a gray area -- the US Food and Drug Administration issued an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) for all three of the vaccines now in use in the United States. But that does not mean formal approval.
"From what we know about the vaccines at this point, it's a very favorable proposition to be vaccinated," said Dr. Howard Forman, the director and founder of Yale School of Medicine's MD/MBA program. "But, in keeping with principles of biomedical ethics, you really want to be able to protect the individual choice in the matter as much as possible."
In its guidance on products that have emergency use authorization, the US Food and Drug Administration says that recipients must be informed that they "have the option to accept or refuse the EUA product and of any consequences of refusing administration of the product."
The question of whether vaccines with an EUA can be mandated "has never been tested in court, and there are very strong legal arguments against this view" that they are experimental and should not be mandated, Dorit Rubinstein Reiss, a professor of law at the University of California, wrote last month.
"At this point, while there is still legal uncertainty, my view is that the balance of factors supports the ability of employers (or states) to require EUA vaccines," Reiss wrote. "Courts vary, but my current assessment is that most courts would be inclined to uphold an employer mandate for an EUA COVID-19 vaccine."
Survey: Many students agree colleges have right to require vaccine
Students overwhelmingly believe that universities and colleges have the right to mandate inoculation, according to a poll by College Pulse, a research company that focuses on colleges and universities, published in January. In a survey of 1,000 students, 71% said "colleges have the right to require students to get vaccinated before returning to campus."
Hayley Slusser, editor-in-chief of Rutgers' student-run newspaper, The Daily Targum, called the university's decision "the right choice."
Though she hasn't yet been vaccinated, she said she will when it is available to her.
"Safety is really important," Slusser, who will be a senior this fall, told CNN. "As somebody who commutes to school and lives with high risk individual, I would feel more comfortable knowing that everyone on campus is vaccinated and we wouldn't contribute to anyone getting sick on campus (with Covid-19) ever again."
Nicholas F. LaBelle, president of the Rutgers University Student Assembly, also described the university's mandate as "the right move."
"We look forward to not only working with the University administration in meeting this goal, but also in ensuring that vaccine distribution is equitable, efficient, and setting an example for peer institutions," LaBelle said in a statement.
"Through shared vigilance and unity, Rutgers will return as the beloved community that we have cultivated throughout these tumultuous times and go forth into a brighter tomorrow."
The Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine could be ready for children ages 12 to 15 by the start of the upcoming school year, Dr. William Gruber, Pfizer’s senior vice president of vaccine clinical research and development, said Thursday.
Pfizer says it has evaluated its vaccine in 2,259 children between 12 and 15 years-old and plans to share safety and efficacy data soon.
“Our goal is to get this information submitted to the FDA as soon as possible,” Gruber told NBC. “If all goes as planned, the vaccine for 12 to 15-year-olds could be ready as soon as the start of the next school year.”
The entire population could benefit from school-age kids getting vaccinated, Gruber noted.
“I think that adding the school-age population, based on recommendations from the FDA and the CDC, could go a long way in helping us reach herd protection,” he said.
Gruber explained what these trials aim to find.
“I think we need to see what the immune response, in short, is, specifically, how much antibody they make that can kill the virus. Is it comparable to what we see in adults?” he said. “If it is, then I think we have reason to have great confidence that the vaccine will likely protect children as well as it does adults.”
Gruber noted that Pfizer also aims to ensure children don’t have side effects to the vaccine that are more extreme than those seen in adults.
Some context: This week, the first children received a shot in phase 1 of Pfizer-BioNTech’s trial of children under the age of 12. The company expects results by the end of 2021.
8 hr 11 min ago
More than 500 unaccompanied migrant children have Covid-19 in US shelters
From CNN's Priscilla Alvarez
More than 500 unaccompanied migrant children currently held in US government shelters have tested positive for Covid-19, federal officials said Thursday, underscoring the challenges the Biden administration faces as it sees a surge of children arriving at the US-Mexico border.
A spokesperson for the Office of Refugee Resettlement, the agency charged with caring for migrant children, said a total of 528 children are in isolation after testing positive for the coronavirus, amounting to about 4.4% of children currently in custody. None have required hospitalization.
About 11,900 unaccompanied migrant children are presently in ORR custody. The test data does not include Covid-19 cases identified from emergency intake sites, such as the Dallas convention center.
Some context: Since March 24, 2020, there have been a total of 3,715 lab-confirmed Covid-19 cases among migrant children, ORR said.
Critics of the Biden administration's immigration policy, including Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, have alleged, without evidence, that migrants coming into his state are exposing residents to coronavirus.
But the data suggests a relatively low rate of infection among migrant children. The seven-day average positivity rate in Texas was 6.1% on Wednesday, according to Johns Hopkins University data.
The European Union will “step up and speed up” Covid-19 vaccine production and distribution in Europe “over the next few weeks,” President of the European Council Charles Michel said on Thursday.
“We are trying to take an inventory of the work that has been done. Over the next few weeks we hope to step up and speed up the production and distribution of vaccines to member states,” Michel said after chairing a meeting of the 27 member states.
"It's absolutely vital of course that we keep on working to improve vaccine production in Europe, and improve our ability to distribute those to member states,” he added.
All residents 16 and older in Connecticut can receive a Covid-19 vaccine starting April 1, Gov. Ned Lamont said Thursday.
Lamont announced that the state will administer over 200,000 first-dose vaccinations next week.
So far, 80% of people 75 and over in the state have been vaccinated, the governor said.
There are 619,154 people who have been fully vaccinated across the state, and a total of 1,680,671 doses have been administered, according to the state’s Covid-19 dashboard.
The state has created a $58 million budget to increase outreach and access in communities with low vaccination rates, including Black and Latino communities.
This budget will include methods of outreach such as door-to-door canvassing on vaccine awareness, the establishment of mobile clinics in communities, vaccination appointment settling and grants to local health departments and community organizations.
“We’re doing everything we can to bring the vaccine to you,” and especially those most at risk, Lamont said.
“Trusted people are the best advocates to encourage others to get vaccinate,” the governor explained.
North Carolina will be expanding vaccine eligibility to all adults starting April 7, Gov. Roy Cooper announced Thursday.
“I’m encouraged that North Carolina will be able to open eligibility to all adults well ahead of the President’s May 1st goal,” Cooper said in a news conference.
The state's health secretary, Mandy Cohen, laid out details of the accelerated timeline, saying the state would be moving forward and opening vaccination eligibility to groups 4 and 5 with the rest of Group 4 being eligible to sign up to receive vaccines on March 31.
According to a statement from the governor’s office, starting next week, the rest of group 4 individuals are defined as additional essential workers and people living in other congregate settings such as student dormitories will be eligible for vaccination. According to the state's Department of Health and Human Services, group 5 individuals consist of “everyone who wants a safe and effective COVID-19 vaccination.”
As of Thursday, North Carolina has administered 4.3 million Covid-19 vaccine doses and according to Cooper at least a third of the state’s adult population has received at least one shot.
11 hr 26 min ago
Mexico's coronavirus death toll surpasses 200,000
From Karol Suarez
Mexico's health ministry has reported 200,211 deaths from coronavirus since the pandemic began.
The ministry reported 584 new deaths Thursday.
Mexico has the th
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