UPDATED: May 6, 2021 at 12:30 a.m.
Harvard will require that all students receive a Covid-19 vaccine to live on campus during the fall 2021 term, the school announced Wednesday.
The announcement comes as vaccination appointments are becoming more readily available across the United States, and it follows similar declarations from other universities, including several in the Boston area.
In an email to Harvard affiliates, University President Lawrence S. Bacow wrote that students should plan to receive a vaccine authorized by either the U.S. Food and Drug Administration or the World Health Organization at least two weeks prior to returning to campus.
The school will allow exceptions “only for medical or religious reasons,” Bacow wrote in a joint statement with University Provost Alan M. Garber ’76, Executive Vice President Katherine N. Lapp, and University Health Services Director Giang T. Nguyen.
International students and those unable to access a vaccine will be able to receive the vaccine once they arrive on campus, but may be subject to frequent testing until they are fully inoculated, they wrote.
In an interview with The Crimson Wednesday afternoon, Bacow said he does not expect vaccine hesitancy among students to hinder inoculation efforts.
“The indication that we’ve had in conversations with students to date is that students are actually anxious to get vaccinated,” he said. “If they’re vaccinated, they’ll have far greater access and privileges to a variety of things on campus.”
Bacow said the timing of the University’s decision to require vaccinations hinged on the availability of the vaccines.
“We did not think it was appropriate or fair to require vaccinations until [the] vaccine was widely available and so that’s why we waited,” he said.
Harvard will continue to test on-campus affiliates in the summer and fall, according to the email.
“We hope to be able to offer a less restricted, robust on-campus experience for all our students this fall,” the administrators wrote. “These plans, however, depend on low infection rates in our community and across our region.”
Despite the school’s plans to significantly increase the number of students on campus in the fall, Bacow told The Crimson Wednesday that he does not anticipate difficulties expanding on-campus testing capacity.
Currently, on-campus students are tested three times per week. The announcement stated the University will provide further information on the frequency of testing in the fall at a later date, but Bacow said he is hopeful the requirement will lessen.
“It’s certainly our hope that as more people are vaccinated that the testing requirements for those vaccinated would be less than for those who are not vaccinated,” Bacow told The Crimson.
Harvard will begin offering vaccination appointments through HUHS for the first time on Friday. The University had previously received only a limited supply of doses, but will be able to offer Pfizer doses to affiliates and HUHS patients “as a result of our close academic relationship with Mass General Brigham,” the administrators wrote in the announcement Wednesday.
“We have reached a point where it appears now that there’s going to be adequate supply so that we can more quickly vaccinate people who wish to be vaccinated,” Bacow said in the interview. “I think that if that continues to be the case, I’m hopeful that we’ll have access from a variety of sources to more vaccine[s] to distribute through HUHS.”
Wednesday’s announcement did not include a vaccination requirement for faculty, staff, and researchers working on campus, but the email encouraged them to “make every effort” to be vaccinated.
“Further guidance regarding vaccination expectations for faculty, staff, and researchers is under consideration and will be provided in the near future,” the administrators wrote.
The administrators also announced that Harvard has relaxed its outdoor mask requirement, no longer mandating masks when six feet of distance can be maintained in line with updated federal guidelines.
—Staff writer Jasper G. Goodman can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @Jasper_Goodman.
—Staff writer Kelsey J. Griffin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @kelseyjgriffin.