The University of Hawaii System on Monday announced that it is adding a COVID-19 vaccination to its student health clearance requirements beginning in the fall 2021 semester.

“As with existing health clearance requirements, students will be able to request exemptions for medical and religious reasons,” according to a press release. “More detailed information will be made available in the coming months as implementation plans are finalized.”

To be on any UH campus, students must be fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

As well, UH said the vaccine requirement will take effect only after at least one of the three COVID-19 vaccines currently under emergency use authorization has been approved and fully licensed by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, something that UH said is “anticipated this summer.”

UH has around 50,000 enrolled students across 10 campuses statewide.

“It is clear that a vaccinated campus is a safer campus for everyone, and a fully vaccinated student community enables the best opportunity for a healthy return to high-quality face-to-face teaching, learning and research,” said UH President David Lassner. “This decision does not come lightly, and is based on guidance from our own Health and Well-Being Working Group as well as the American College Health Association recommendation that all on-campus college students be required to be vaccinated.”

International students can satisfy UH’s vaccine requirement with a vaccine that has been authorized under the World Health Organizations’s emergency use listing, according to Lassner, who later spoke at a press conference.

The university will also be initiating formal discussions with the three unions that represent UH employees about possibly requiring COVID-19 vaccination.

Officials have not yet decided whether or not to require faculty and staff to be vaccinated.

The University of California and California State University are among many colleges and universities now requiring COVID-19 vaccinations “in some form” for the start of the 2021-22 academic year, according to UB University Business.

UH’s health clearance requirements for students currently include a TB clearance and immunizations for Measles Mumps, Rubella (MMR) and Tetanus-diphtheria-pertussis and Varicella. Meningococcal Conjugate vaccinations are also required for first-year students living in on-campus housing.

For more information, click here to access a list of FAQs regarding the new requirement.

Civil Beat reporter Blaze Lovell contributed to this report.

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