In a continued effort to support the health and wellness of the entire Northeastern community, the university announced today that faculty and staff based in the United States will be required to be vaccinated against COVID-19 by the fall semester.
Northeastern was among the first universities to require that all students be vaccinated before returning to campus in the fall, and at the time, officials encouraged faculty and staff to get vaccinated as soon as they became eligible as well.
Now, as cases of COVID-19 tick upward across the country and a more contagious strain of SARS-CoV-2—the coronavirus that causes COVID-19—gains traction, university officials are requiring faculty and staff to submit verification of vaccination by Sept. 8, 2021.
University employees can submit vaccine verification through Northeastern’s online wellness portal, under the link that reads “Vaccine Verification.” Completing the vaccination verification process is required, and “the university will take all steps necessary to ensure full compliance with this policy,” said Ken Henderson, chancellor and senior vice president for learning at Northeastern, in a message to faculty and staff on Monday.
Faculty and staff will be able to submit requests for exemptions to the vaccine requirement for medical reasons or where someone expresses a sincerely held religious belief.
“The university’s management of the pandemic over the last 18 months has consistently been ahead of the curve and has allowed Northeastern to maintain safe, effective operational continuity without interrupting students’ academic progress or our research growth,” Henderson said.
“Achieving a 100 percent vaccination rate among our community will allow all of us to continue to achieve these goals and will further safeguard our community,” he said.
Christo Wilson, associate professor of computer science, said that vaccination was “extremely” important for him.
“I have small children who won’t be eligible for vaccination anytime soon; reaching herd immunity is the only way to protect my family and still regain a semblance of normal, pre-pandemic life,” said Wilson, who also directs the bachelor of science in cybersecurity program at Northeastern.
Key parts of Northeastern’s successful reopening for the Spring 2021 term were an adherence to public health guidelines and robust surveillance testing—both of which the university will continue into the fall. Students, faculty, and staff will undergo COVID-19 testing once a week starting in the first week of September.
“It’s a comfort to know that Northeastern is a safe place to come to work every day—both for my own peace of mind and because I’m aware of protecting the other people I see outside of Northeastern,” said Tim Kenneally, vice president of operations and planning for University Advancement.
The university recently conducted a survey of vaccine status among employees in which 80 percent of faculty and staff participated. Ninety-seven percent of the people who responded reported that they were already fully vaccinated or would be by September 2021.
“While this level of reported vaccine adherence is strong, we are still left with a significant number of individuals whose status is unknown,” said Henderson, a concern compounded by the emergence of the Delta variant and the recent rise in COVID-19 cases.
The Delta variant is much more contagious than other known versions of the virus, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Vaccination and, in some circumstances, continued mask-wearing, are important measures to protect against such a transmissible variant, officials say.
“The vaccines provide our best defense against this virus,” said Neil Maniar, professor of the practice and director of the Master of Public Health in Urban Health program at Northeastern.
“Having as close to 100 percent of our Northeastern community vaccinated will help ensure that we have a safe and successful school year by creating an environment where the virus has very few opportunities to enter our community,” he said.