Northeastern to require COVID-19 vaccinations for all students this fall

Photo by Matthew Modoono/Northeastern University

All students returning to Northeastern University’s campuses for the Fall 2021 term will be expected to be fully vaccinated against SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus that causes COVID-19, by the first day of classes, university officials said today. This announcement comes as the university advances its plan for a return to full-time, in-person learning in September while supporting the safety of Northeastern’s campuses and broader community.

Northeastern Chancellor Ken Henderson. Photo by Matthew Modoono/Northeastern University

“What we’ve learned over the pandemic period is the power of human interaction and the power of teaching and learning in the classroom is something we want to enhance and build upon moving forward,” said Ken Henderson, chancellor and senior vice president for learning at Northeastern. “We expect to be back fully in-person at regular occupancy, including fully in-person teaching, and normal occupancy in residence halls and dining facilities.”

Given the health science, he said, the university sees herd immunity as crucial to being able to return safely to fully in-person learning and campus life. “In order to get herd immunity, we need to get a maximum number of people possible vaccinated,” Henderson says. “If all, or nearly all of our students are vaccinated, we expect that we’ll be able to achieve herd immunity.”

In the U.S., every person over the age of 16 will be eligible to be vaccinated starting May 1. In Massachusetts, that date is earlier, on April 19. Students on Massachusetts campuses can already pre-register for vaccine appointments through the state, even if they are not yet eligible for inoculations. All students in Massachusetts, even those hailing from other states or countries, can be vaccinated in the state.

In recent weeks, Massachusetts has completed an average of more than 57,000 vaccinations each day, with a total of 3.9 million doses distributed in the state. Nearly 1.5 million people in Massachusetts have been fully vaccinated. The state is forecasting an increase in federal vaccine supply, including the one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine. 

Henderson and other university officials urge students to get fully vaccinated as soon as they can. They will be expected to arrive on campus in September fully vaccinated, unless they have a medical or religious exemption. The university will help international students or others who cannot get vaccinated before arriving on campus in the fall navigate vaccination as needed.

Northeastern will require proof of inoculation with vaccines that are approved in the country where the campus the student is attending is located. The method by which students can show proof will be announced in the coming days.

All full-time and part-time students at Northeastern University are already required by the state of Massachusetts to submit documentation of immunizations against measles, mumps, rubella, tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis (tdap), hepatitis B, varicella/chicken pox, meningitis.

Northeastern re-opened campuses last fall with frequent COVID-19 surveillance testing and strictly enforced public health protocols. As such, COVID-19 cases have remained low on the Boston campus for most of the academic year. 

On January 5, Northeastern became the first university in Massachusetts to begin vaccinating members of its community in accordance with the state’s phased approach. In February, the state announced that, due to limited federal supply, it would no longer provide vaccine to colleges and universities and instead prioritize distribution to its mass vaccination sites, medical facilities, and pharmacies.

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