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Utah’s colleges, universities can’t require vaccine unless they also allow for exemptions

(Utah State Capitol complex. Paul Nelson, file)

SALT LAKE CITY — A new law in Utah states colleges can’t require students to prove they’ve gotten a COVID-19 vaccine to be enrolled, unless the school also allows for several exemptions.

Can colleges require a vaccine? 

“It’s not necessarily strictly prohibiting it, it’s saying you can’t require proof of vaccination unless you also allow for several tyles of exemptions.” said Geoff Landward,  Deputy Commissioner and General Counsel for the Utah System of Higher Education. “Essentially those [exemptions] are medical, or a personal exemption — that includes a personal or religious belief.”

The newly signed law, H.B.233, also states schools can’t force someone to take remote classes if they haven’t been vaccinated because of one of those exemptions.

“You have to allow them to come on your campus,” he said. 

Rugters University in New Jersey said Friday they will be requiring their students get one of the three COVID-19 vaccines in order to attend school in-person in the fall.

The University of Utah Communications Director Chris Nelson said schools can’t actually require a vaccine that’s being used for emergency authorization, but it’s possible the school could require it “down the road.” Regardless, he said they will definitely “strongly encourage” it this year.

Amanda DeRito, associate vice president for strategic communication at Utah State University, said their school also plans to strongly encourage students to get vaccinated and will start a media campaign promoting that message.