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Oakland University will mandate COVID-19 vaccination for some students

Kim Kozlowski
The Detroit News

Oakland University announced Monday that students living on campus will be required to be vaccinated against the coronavirus.

Oakland is believed to be the first public university in Michigan to require vaccination but is not expected to be the last, said Daniel Hurley, CEO of the Michigan Association of State Universities.

OU is requiring students who plan to live in the residence halls, apartments and cottages this fall to be vaccinated before moving in on Aug. 27. Exceptions will be made for those who seek an exemption based on religious or medical reasons.

Oakland President Ora Pescovitz said the university has obtained 5,200 doses of vaccine, a combination of Moderna, Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson brands, that will be offered to students, staff and faculty starting this week and added she hopes many students get vaccinated before leaving campus for the semester. 

Pescovitz, a pediatrician, said she strongly recommends that the OU community gets vaccinated as quickly a possible because there is a race underway between the COVID-19 virus, variants of the disease and efforts to vaccinate people in Michigan. 

Oakland University is requiring students who plan to live in the residence halls, apartments and cottages this fall to be vaccinated before moving in on Aug. 27.

"We want to return to normalcy as quickly as possible," said Pescovitz. "In order to provide assurances to our students and their parents and families, I want every single person who lives in the residence halls to know it’s the healthiest and safest place for them. In order to ensure that … is vaccination."

Colleges across the country are starting to issue similar mandates. Rutgers University in New Jersey is thought to be the first to require that all students be vaccinated.

Hurley said he is not aware of any other public university in Michigan issuing a similar requirement as OU.

"I am quite confident it will not be the last," said Hurley. "The universities are monitoring the (virus) conditions and this particular question is one being discussed constantly."

Hurley said many universities are encouraging students to get vaccinated and he doesn't expect a blanket mandate. Rather, he predicted that universities will mandate that certain subgroups of students be vaccinated, such as athletes, students taking classes or living on campus and students working in medical settings.

"It’s a rational policy to put in place to ensure health and safety of everyone and to mitigate the spread of the COVID-19 virus," Hurley said. "There may be some families that go along begrudgingly but there will be many more who are thankful for the policy and they can come back to a robust, learning lifestyle."

OU obtained the doses from the state and Oakland County. It will begin offering vaccines on campus starting Wednesday.

Faculty, staff and students can sign up to get the vaccine Wednesday through Friday at the Rite Aid clinic located on campus in Meadow Brook Theater in Wilson Hall by registering here.

OU students will get a gift from the university if they get the Johnson & Johnson one-shot vaccine from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. on April 13 at the Oakland Center.