College will require vaccination to return this fall
Provost Joseph Helble made the announcement in the latest “Community Conversations” livestream.
Some students have gotten vaccinated at the former J.C. Penney in West Lebanon, while others have traveled to Claremont, New Hampshire or further afield.
At the College’s “Community Conversations” livestream on Wednesday, Provost Joseph Helble announced that all students must be vaccinated for COVID-19 before returning to campus for fall of 2021, or must be vaccinated shortly after arrival. The College currently does not have a vaccine distribution plan for unvaccinated individuals, but is continuing to “explore” options for providing vaccinations on campus and in surrounding areas, according to Helble.
Although students are required to receive the vaccine, faculty and staff are only “strongly” encouraged to do so. Helble explained that students are members of a congregate living environment, which is “one of the most critical areas for controlling the spread of the infection.” Last fall, all members of the community were expected to receive a flu vaccine for the 2020-2021 academic year, and free doses were provided by the College on a limited basis.
The College anticipates that it will “initially” accept COVID-19 vaccines that have received emergency use authorization from the Food and Drug Administration such as the Johnson & Johnson, Moderna and Pfizer vaccines, according to Helble. The list of acceptable vaccines may expand during the summer but will be finalized before the start of fall term.
Helble said that religious and medical exemptions for students will be “accommodated.” Exemption requests will be handled on “a case-by-case basis,” according to vice president of communications Justin Anderson.
Helble said that the College plans to track the number of students vaccinated throughout the summer to be certain that the community is “on track” to reach herd immunity by September. This decision comes as part of an effort to resume full residential operations in the fall, a goal that will require high levels of vaccinations, according to Helble.
“Because [the Dartmouth community] would not be fully vaccinated yet… we know the residential experience [during the summer] will be resembling some of what we have been having and experiencing for the last year,” associate dean of residential life Michael Wooten said during the livestream. “We need to have [COVID-19] protocols in place until the vaccination is required [and] until we have enough vaccination across the community to ensure the safety of the community, and we know that we need to start planning and preparing for what will be a closer-to-normal fall term.”
Helble said that although personal travel will continue to be discouraged, all fully vaccinated individuals of the Dartmouth community will be able to participate in Dartmouth-sponsored travel within the United States starting April 19. Unvaccinated individuals will only be permitted to participate in Dartmouth-sponsored travel within New England. All international travel will require a travel exemption.
Helble added that if the College does not achieve herd immunity levels, then social distancing protocols and a mixed hybrid-residential and remote learning model will be maintained for the fall.
This decision follows the April 6 announcement that fully vaccinated students, faculty and staff may reduce their testing frequency after submitting their vaccination records to the Dartmouth College Health Service starting this week. Moreover, people who are fully vaccinated prior to traveling are not required to quarantine upon return to the Upper Valley unless they exhibit symptoms of COVID-19.
New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu announced on April 8 that beginning April 19, COVID-19 vaccine eligibility will open up to anyone, regardless of residency — including out-of-state college students. As of Wednesday, 29% of the population in Grafton County has been fully vaccinated, and statewide, 53.9% of New Hampshire’s population — the highest in the nation — has received at least one dose, according to data from The New York Times.
In an email statement, COVID-19 Task Force co-chair Lisa Adams wrote that the College is “still collecting information on student vaccination,” noting that “a couple of hundred” students have already sent their documentation. The College expects the number of students who have sent in their records to increase now that incentives are in place, according to Adams.
Federico Cigolot ’24, an international student from Italy, recently received a COVID-19 vaccine at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center on April 10. He expressed his excitement about receiving the vaccine in the United States, noting that the vaccine distribution was “not going that well in Italy.”
When Cigolot told his family that he received the vaccine, he said they were “pretty astonished, because in Italy, they do not even have enough doses to vaccinate old people.”
“I had faith in the College. I had faith in New Hampshire.” Cigolot said. “I knew things were going pretty well nationally, so I was expecting to get the vaccine here.”
Prior to Helble’s announcement, Phuc Tran ’24 said that he has yet to receive the vaccine, but expects to get vaccinated in New Hampshire because it is “more convenient” than returning to his home state, Georgia.
However, Tran said that he wished the College would make it easier for students to get vaccinated.
“If [the College] can streamline the process and make it easier for us, that would work. I don’t think [DHMC is] easy [to get to],” Tran said. “It’s close, but I think they can put in the effort to put it in Leverone and make it a system.”
The College’s announcement mandating vaccinations for returning students follows similar announcements by peer institutions. Brown University announced on April 6 that the university will require COVID-19 vaccines for all undergraduate, graduate and medical students who will be on campus or attending any in-person components.
Similarly, Cornell University announced on April 2 that it plans to require vaccination for students returning to any of its campuses for the fall semester because it is likely that Cornell community members “will be able to obtain vaccination sometime this spring or summer.”
Cornell has not determined whether international vaccines will be accepted, but still encourages people to submit proof of their vaccine.
Middlebury College associate vice president for public affairs Julia Ferrante wrote in an email statement that Middlebury’s officials “are still in discussion about vaccination policies” and plan to announce their official plan for the fall in the spring or summer.