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Emory University, Oxford College to require students get COVID vaccine; faculty optional
Oxford College - students
Oxford College students sit socially distanced during the 2021 spring semester. All Emory University students, including those enrolled at Oxford, will be required to get the COVID-19 vaccine ahead of the 2021 fall semester. (Photo courtesy of Oxford College)

OXFORD, Ga. — Officials announced Monday, April 19, that all students of Emory University and Oxford College must receive COVID-19 vaccinations ahead of the fall semester.

Emory University President Gregory L. Fenves unveiled the institution’s plan in a letter directed to the “Emory community,” later obtained by The Covington News.

Within the letter, Fenves stated the rule of requiring students to be vaccinated was to ensure students can to return to campus in a somewhat normal capacity.

“Widespread vaccination is crucial for all of us to return to campus in the fall, and I am encouraged to see that increasing numbers of Emory students, staff and faculty are receiving vaccinations,” he said.

Fenves wrote that more than 14,000 Emory students, faculty and staff had already received at least one dose through Emory Healthcare while "many others in our campus community have been vaccinated elsewhere.” He said the decision to require all students get the vaccine came after a “thorough review of Emory vaccination policies that was focused on the health of the campus community.”

“Student vaccinations will create a healthier environment in our classrooms, which will be at full density during the fall,” Fenves wrote in the letter. “It will also allow for student life activities including programs, athletics and intramural sports, performances and events, and appropriately-sized gatherings. In addition to vaccinations, we will also continue to employ the public health measures we have embraced over the course of the pandemic including the wearing of face coverings and testing.”

Some students may be exempt from the vaccine requirement based on “medical conditions or strong personal objections,” Fenves stated.

Fenves said staff and faculty are not required to get the vaccine; however, he “strongly” recommends they do so anyway.

To follow up Fenves’ letter, Oxford College Dean Douglas A. Hicks issued his own letter to address Oxford’s faculty, staff and students.

“Thanks to the availability of the COVID-19 vaccine, high vaccination rates in the Emory community, and our efficient COVID-19 testing procedures and follow-up protocols, Oxford will offer the vast majority of our courses in person with regular class sizes — which, of course, at Oxford tend to be small,” Hicks said in the letter. “The ability to gather safely indoors in greater numbers means that such activities as club meetings, dining together, athletic competition, intramural sports, concerts, and lectures can take place once again, although a few restrictions may remain. Students will be able to gather and visit in residence halls, and most students will have a roommate.  

“As the previous messages outlined, having these experiences again on our campus means that all of us share certain responsibilities,” the letter continued. “Students must all be vaccinated, barring exceptions for medical conditions or strong personal objections. I am delighted that many, if not most, of the students on campus this semester have received the vaccine at Emory’s North Lake site or at the on-campus clinic at Oxford. Those faculty and staff who have not already been vaccinated are strongly encouraged to do so. We plan to continue regular COVID-19 testing and other recommended health and safety protocols.”

Each year approximately 1,000 students are admitted into Oxford College, which serves as an undergraduate division of Emory University for first- and second-year students.