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Watch now: Will COVID vaccines be required at Illinois Wesleyan University, ISU?
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COVID | HIGHER EDUCATION

Watch now: Will COVID vaccines be required at Illinois Wesleyan University, ISU?

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Illinois National Guardsman Kristal Abando, right, administers a COVID-19 vaccination to ISU freshman Heather Paraday, a history major from New Lenox, during a vaccination clinic March 25 at Bone Student Center. 

Gov. J.B. Pritzker on Wednesday, April 28, fields a question at Heartland Community College about whether college students could be required to get vaccinated for COVID-19 before returning to campus.

NORMAL — Neither Illinois State University nor Illinois Wesleyan University have plans to require students to get vaccinated for COVID-19 before returning to school this fall, although they are strongly encouraging them to do so.

ISU spokesman Eric Jome said Monday any such mandate would come from the state level, most likely the Illinois Department of Public Health.

Heartland Community College also is waiting to hear more from IDPH and the Illinois Community College Board before requiring vaccinations, according to spokesman Steve Fast.

When Gov. J.B. Pritzker was asked about the possibility mandatory vaccines while on the Heartland Community College campus last week, he acknowledged “that’s something that’s under some discussion around the nation” but said, “What we want right now is for people to raise their hands and say, ‘I want to get vaccinated.’”

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Illinois State University intends to continue COVID-19 testing on campus this fall but has no plans to require students to be vaccinated against the novel coronavirus.

Not everyone thinks the voluntary approach is best.

During a public comment session Monday before the ISU board of trustees met in closed session as part of the presidential search committee, an ISU student urged the board to require coronavirus vaccinations.

Isabel Samuel, a master’s student in theater and dance who is also a graduate teaching assistant, told the board, “Mandating a COVID vaccine is the most effective strategy we have, especially as we try to reach herd immunity.”

Samuel said, “It’s not just one tool in this fight, it’s our best tool and one I believe is critical to our safe return to campus.”

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According to a list Monday in UniversityBusiness.com, a growing number of colleges and universities in 30 states plan to require vaccinations.

In Illinois, the list includes Columbia College Chicago, DePaul University, Loyola University Chicago and Roosevelt University — all private institutions.

Watch now: McLean County adds more than 100 COVID cases since Friday

Samuel noted that ISU already requires a number of vaccinations, such as ones for tetanus, mumps, measles, rubella and meningitis.

But Jome said, unlike those vaccines, the COVID-19 vaccines currently are being provided under an emergency use authorization from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

IWU also made that distinction, noting in a March 22 message to the campus, “We highly encourage all students, faculty and staff to be vaccinated. We do not intend to require the COVID-19 vaccination while it is designated for emergency use.”

Jome said that planning for fall is not complete but “we’re still going to have testing capacity.”

Likewise, Pritzker said, “We’ve provided mobile vaccination units in many of the colleges in Illinois and certainly we’re looking to partner with more.”

Jome said ISU is “watching the local vaccine rollout” and state guidelines.

“We’re interested in moving back to a more traditional campus atmosphere,” he said, which would mean “more in-person classes, more in-person activities and increased capacity in on-campus housing.”

Contact Lenore Sobota at (309) 820-3240. Follow her on Twitter: @Pg_Sobota

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