Pepperdine created a second draft of its COVID-19 Vaccine Policy, which would require students to be vaccinated before attending school in the fall. The University Management Committee shared a second draft of its interim COVID-19 Vaccine Policy on May 12 for community review. The updated policy would require students to be vaccinated before attending school in the fall.
Under new state, federal and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance, Pepperdine should be able to fully reopen with a fully vaccinated student population for fall 2021.
“The overarching goal of the policy will be to provide maximum safety to our community while at the same time facilitating a return to the campus activities of teaching, learning, scholarship and fellowship that best reflect the heart of who we are,” said Biology Professor and Vice Provost Lee Kats in the May 5 President’s Briefing.
The University Management Committee, led by Chief Operating Officer Phil Phillips and consisting of most executive administrators, created an interdisciplinary subcommittee to create an interim COVID-19 vaccine policy for the university.
Kats serves as the subcommittee chair and said during the briefing that the committee evaluated community comments and other schools’ policies in creating the second draft.
“Following additional comment and input from the community, the policy will be discussed by the President’s Steering Team and will be voted on by the University Management Committee,” Kats said during the briefing.
Pepperdine released the first draft of the proposed interim COVID-19 Vaccine Policy on March 25 for community review.
The first draft did not require the vaccine, because the vaccine has yet to be approved by the Federal Drug Administration, but “strongly recommended” community members receive the COVID-19 vaccine, according to the draft.
Months later on May 12, the committee provided a second draft also for community review, which would make vaccination mandatory for the Pepperdine community once a COVID-19 vaccine is FDA approved.
“Pepperdine University will require all students, faculty, and staff accessing any University campus or facility, beginning the Fall 2021 term, to be fully vaccinated for COVID-19 (defined as two weeks after the second dose of a two-dose vaccine series or two weeks after the vaccination of a single-dose vaccine) with a CDC-authorized vaccine,” according to the second policy draft.
The University will provide medical and religious exemptions consistent with usual practices, according to the second policy draft.
“Those community members in compliance with the policy but not vaccinated will be subject to additional health and safety precautions at the University, such as required, regular COVID-19 testing (potentially at the expense of student or employee) and quarantine/isolation in the case of a close contact, etc.,” according to the second policy draft. “Participation in certain events or programs may be limited to vaccinated individuals.”
The University has not shared when it will implement the policy.
The Vaccine, State and Federal Guidance
As of May 17, three vaccines received U.S. FDA Emergency Use Authorization for distribution — two-dose Moderna and Pfizer and one-dose Johnson & Johnson.
On May 13, the CDC determined vaccinated persons can resume most pre-pandemic activities without wearing a mask or practicing social distancing. To be considered fully vaccinated, a person is two weeks past their final dose (second dose of Moderna or Pfizer or one dose of Johnson & Johnson).
Under new CDC guidance, vaccinated people can gather indoors without masks and do not need to quarantine after travel or after exposure to COVID-19.
California’s mask mandate remains in place until June 15, when the state is supposed to fully reopen its economy, to provide people time to prepare and get vaccinated, according to a May 17 statement from the state’s health director, Dr. Mark Ghaly.
From a Logistical Standpoint
With these guidelines in place, Pepperdine would be able to fully reopen without masking and social distancing for in-person summer classes in July, so long as students, faculty and staff are vaccinated.
“As more individuals receive a vaccine, the Pepperdine community will become more protected against COVID-19 and likely be subject to fewer restrictive limitations in applicable health orders,” according to the second policy draft.
In an April 26 interview with the Graphic, Chief Business Officer Nicolle Taylor shared the benefits of vaccination regarding outbreaks.
“The more people vaccinated, the better, because it is less likely that we’ll have an outbreak, so that’s the first thing,” Taylor said.
Under LA County guidance, fully vaccinated people do not have to quarantine after exposure, Taylor said, meaning Pepperdine would not have to provide separate quarantine spaces for students on campus if all students are vaccinated.
Vaccinated students are also exempt from COVID-19 testing, according to the first policy draft, reducing the University’s obligation to pay for and provide tests.
The NCAA COVID-19 Medical Advisory Group also determined April 29 that vaccinated student-athletes with no COVID-19 like symptoms can be exempt from routine testing.
In a March 15 interview with the Graphic, Housing Director Robin Gore shared that the University also plans to allow vaccinated students to have roommates for the summer and fall, allowing the University to house more students if they are vaccinated.
“We would just encourage students, of course, as soon as they can get the vaccine, if it’s the right fit for them, to go ahead and do that so that we can be as ready for the fall as we can,” Gore said.
Neighboring universities have also implemented a vaccination requirement for the fall. The California State University and University of California school systems will all require a vaccine for in-person activities.
The Pepperdine Student Health Center continues to vaccinate community members and locals, administering more than 1,400 doses as of May 4.
“As we prepare to reopen our campuses, vaccinations are a powerful tool to enable a return to in-person learning and to be able to offer an array of co-curricular activities,” according to the second policy draft.
While vaccination may help Pepperdine reopen for the fall, not everyone is eligible or ready to be vaccinated.
International students face barriers based on their country’s vaccination plans and their eligibility to return to the U.S. While some vaccines are available abroad — like China’s Sinovac and Britain’s AstraZeneca — neither are approved by the CDC or FDA, meaning students would need to receive Pfizer, Moderna or Johnson & Johnson to be policy compliant.
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