January 4, 2021
The end of the pandemic may be in sight. But thorny legal and logistical questions about vaccinations are just starting for colleges. Chief among them: Can colleges require their employees and students to receive Covid-19 vaccinations? And how should they encourage skeptics to get them?
As institutions that employ and educate tens of millions of Americans, colleges can play a key role in helping vaccinate enough people to reach herd immunity and tame a virus that has killed more than 350,000 people in the United States. Immunizing their employees and students would also grease their return to in-person learning after a year of financial turmoil.
But mandatory vaccinations could be a potential minefield and pit colleges against civil libertarians and antivaccine activists at a time when colleges don’t feel they have the support of the federal government, said Peter F. Lake, a professor of law at Stetson University. So, for now, most are holding off on deciding whether to require vaccines, until there is clearer federal guidance.