Nevada’s college students must get COVID-19 vaccines to enroll — in the spring

by Joseph K. Clark

Dive Brief: 

  • Public college students in Nevada will have to show proof they’ve been vaccinated against the coronavirus by November to enroll in face-to-face classes for the spring term, the State Board of Health decided last week.
  • According to local media reports, board members approved the measure after three hours of public comments, which were dominated by opponents of the vaccine requirement.
  • The new regulation does not impact the fall term. The emergency decision will be effective for 120 days, meaning the board will have to undergo a lengthier process to permanently expand the list of required vaccines.

Dive Insight: 

COVID-19 vaccines

With its new requirement, Nevada’s state health board joins a growing list of government authorities requiring college students to be vaccinated against the coronavirus for the upcoming academic year.

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, a Democrat, announced last week that college employees must be fully vaccinated by Oct. 18. Philadelphia’s health department is likewise requiring college students and employees to be fully immunized by mid-October.

Nevada’s decision comes as the highly infectious delta variant fuels new coronavirus cases nationwide, with the U.S. regularly tallying more than 100,000 positive tests each day.

So far, more than 750 campuses are mandating at least some employees or students get vaccinated against COVID-19 for the fall, according to The Chronicle of Higher Education. That figure includes schools whose requirements hinged on full approval of one or more of the vaccines.

More mandates may be coming down the pike.

That’s because the U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Monday gave the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine full approval for those 16 and older, which could make more colleges comfortable with mandating the shots. The other two vaccines available in the U.S., from Moderna and Johnson & Johnson, still have only the FDA’s Emergency Use Authorization, designated to distribute them quickly during the health crisis.

The law has often been on the side of college vaccine mandates, even before the full FDA approval of Pfizer’s vaccine. Earlier this month, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to take up a lawsuit challenging Indiana University’s coronavirus vaccine mandate, keeping it in place for the fall. And the U.S. Department of Justice issued an opinion in July arguing federal law does not prohibit mandating vaccines authorized for emergency use.

Still, some states are preventing colleges from issuing vaccine mandates. They include Florida and Texas, where several schools are starting the fall term online amid skyrocketing coronavirus cases in the state and elsewhere.

Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak, a Democrat, requested earlier this month that his medical advisory team consider whether the state’s public colleges should require the vaccine for students.

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