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Louisiana colleges split over requiring COVID-19 vaccine for fall semester

WWL-TV News Legal Analyst Keva Landrum says the law only requires vaccinations for measles, mumps, rubella, tetanus and diphtheria in the university setting.

NEW ORLEANS — Some private universities in the Northeast are making COVID vaccines mandatory for students. Some lawyers say they legally can, while others say they can't because the vaccines are only FDA approved for emergency use.

So, we took a look at if local colleges are planning to require vaccines and what the students, who decided to get one, are saying.

Some Tulane University students are being proactive. They are getting a COVID vaccine even though right now it is not required by the school.

“I think it's the right thing to do. There's people dying because of the disease, but there's also people dying because of the lockdowns, because of economic restrictions,” said Tulane SeniorJavier Pastor, a finance student from Spain.

Some Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority sisters and roommates all had COVID in the past and today are getting the vaccine together.

“I know a lot of people my age aren't thinking that it's an obligation, but I believe that it is,” said Tulane sophomore, Caroline Crouse, from New Jersey.

“I want to be able to go back to normal and be able to see my family and give people hugs,” said Tulane sophomore, said Winnie Beaudet, from the Washington DC area.  

“We're trying to protect everyone around us, not just ourselves, so I think if you're not doing it for you, then you can do it for someone's grandfather,” said Lydia Garrett-Metz, a Tulane sophomore.

Tulane University provides giveaways and free transportation to get a vaccine.

So far, more than half of the faculty and staff and more than a third of undergraduate students are vaccinated. Right now, the university is evaluating with its legal team to determine if it can require students be vaccinated in order to attend the fall semester.

“We are strongly recommending, strongly recommending that our community get vaccinated. The surest path to normalcy is through vaccination,” said Tulane Senior Vice-President and Chief Operating Officer and Treasure Patrick Norton.

Here is a look at which local colleges and universities are requiring the vaccine for students to return this fall:

Xavier: Required

Tulane, LSU, University of Holy Cross, Loyola, and Dillard: Encouraging the vaccine and looking into requirements, but have not made decisions yet.

Nicholls State: Encouraging, but not requiring it.

UNO and SLU: No plans to make the vaccine a requirement, but strongly encourage it.

We have not heard back from SUNO.

The City Health Director is particularly worried about getting 16-to-30-year-olds to want a shot.

“You still have a role to play if you want to do all the things that we all love, if you want to go to a parade next year, if you want to go to a Saints game or concert,” said Dr. Jennifer Avegno, New Orleans Health Director.

It is because all ages are needed for herd immunity.

WWL-TV News Legal Analyst Keva Landrum says the law only requires vaccinations for measles, mumps, rubella, tetanus and diphtheria in the university setting.

Private universities could mandate COVID vaccines, but there may be constitutional issues.

Statements from local colleges and universities:

Xavier – "Your vigilance during this past year has allowed Xavier to open its doors and remain open by keeping our COVID19 infection rates very low. To continue our shared commitment to each other, we are requiring that all students receive their Coronavirus vaccines before returning for the Fall 2021 semester. Proof of vaccination will be required for all students planning to attend this fall."

Tulane – (See full story above)

UNO – “While the University of New Orleans has no plans to require vaccinations for students or employees, we are strongly encouraging community members to get vaccinated. UNO is partnering with Ochsner to hold pop-up vaccine clinics on campus, and the response has been excellent. The UNO Lakefront Arena has already hosted one mass vaccination event, with more to come in the future. Vaccinations are a crucial part of our plan to have a more traditional fall semester with many of our cherished in-person activities and traditions."

LSU – “Vaccine requirements continue to be discussed with the administration and no decisions have been made at this time. However, the focus now is on getting vaccines to students, faculty and staff that want it.”

University of Holy Cross – “University of Holy Cross has not decided yet.”

Nicholls State – “While we strongly encourage our faculty, staff and students to educate themselves about the vaccine, we are not requiring individuals to get vaccinated at this time.”

Loyola – “We are thrilled at the chance to keep our campus community safer with vaccines and have encouraged everyone who is eligible to please do so. 98% of students who responded to our survey intend to get the vaccine. We are still considering the possibility of mandates and have not set any timelines. Right now, we are focused on getting all of our students vaccinated as quickly as possible.” 

DILLARD – "Dillard University is cautiously optimistic that the institution will return to in-person instruction in Fall 2021. As the COVID-19 task force prepares, the University will rely on the Dillard community to ensure this happens safely and responsibly per city and state guidelines.
To this end, classes in the registration portal for Fall 2021 have been designated as "face to face" or traditional format. Dillard University anticipates some requirements regarding vaccination for students, faculty, and staff. We encourage members of the Dillard community to monitor the availability of vaccines and get vaccinated when possible.
Currently,  more than 60% of Dillard's faculty and staff are vaccinated, in addition to many nursing students, so we are certainly trending in the right direction. More information on Fall 2021 will become available in the upcoming weeks. "

SLU – "At this time, Southeastern does not plan to require the COVID-19 vaccine for any member of the campus community. We do, however, strongly encourage faculty, staff and students to receive the vaccine in order to help return campus to more normal operations. The University has hosted and will continue to host campus-wide vaccination clinics. To date, approximately 1,803 members of the campus community have received the first dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine on campus, and approximately 1,103 have received the second dose."

SUNO - WWL-TV has not yet heard back from SUNO