COVID-19 Vaccine Requirement for Students, Fall 2021

May 11, 2021

Dear Student,

On April 19, 2021, the University announced its decision to mandate COVID-19 vaccinations for all students, undergraduate and graduate, by the start of the Fall 2021 term. This decision was informed by the now widespread availability of COVID-19 vaccines on our campuses and across the country, as well as confidence in the other protective measures put in place. As President Bollinger stated earlier this term, our goal is to return to normal University life in September while protecting the health and well-being of our community; a vaccinated student population will be critical to making this a reality.

How the requirement works
Students who intend to access campus for any reason at any time beginning Fall 2021, including those registered only for online courses, must be vaccinated before being granted access to University campuses and facilities, as well as participation at in-person University-recognized activities. This requirement applies regardless of the purpose, duration, or frequency of planned access to facilities or participation with in-person activities.

Any student who fails to complete the requirement or has not received a medical or religious exemption to the COVID-19 vaccine shall not be permitted to access University facilities nor engage in any in-person University recognized activities.

Students, graduate and undergraduate, living in University-owned buildings are required to complete the vaccine process at least 14 days prior to their move in, with limited exceptions.

Employees that are registered for any classes, including online and audit only, are considered students and must comply with the vaccine requirement. This requirement applies even if the primary purpose for access to University facilities is a role other than student.

How to complete the requirement
Students can submit their vaccine documentation via the Columbia Health Patient Portal. Columbia University accepts all vaccines recognized as safe and effective according to the World Health Organization.

We encourage students to upload their documentation as soon as possible. All students are expected to complete the vaccine process at least 14 days before first accessing University facilities or participating with in-person, University-approved activities to ensure they are considered fully vaccinated at the time of first access. In Fall 2021, all students are also required to register (new students) or update (continuing students) their Meningitis decision. Please register your decision in the Columbia Health Patient Portal when you submit your COVID-19 documentation.

Completion of the vaccine process is defined as:

  • At least 14 days after the second dose of a two-dose vaccine
  • At least 14 days after receiving a single dose vaccine (currently only the Janssen/Johnson&Johnson vaccine)

In limited situations where a student has difficulty accessing an approved vaccine, the student can receive the vaccine from the University at no out-of-pocket cost.  Until fully vaccinated (as defined above), such students will be required to comply with additional COVID-19 testing requirements and other preventive measures in place at that time.

Religious or Medical Exemptions
Columbia is committed to providing a safe, inclusive, and supportive experience for all students. The University recognizes student observance of their faith as it pertains to the practice of immunization and limited medical contraindications to certain vaccinations. Personal and philosophical objections to the COVID-19 vaccine requirement are not permitted; requests based on personal or philosophical reasons will be denied.

Students wishing to request an exemption must submit the required request forms via the Columbia Health Patient Portal. Exemption requests will not be considered if incomplete documentation is received. Students with approved exemptions for other vaccines must submit a new and separate request for the COVID-19 vaccine.

All requests are considered and reviewed, but approval is not guaranteed. Decisions are final, not subject to appeal, and will be shared in a determination letter sent to your University email.  Students may submit a new request with new supporting documentation.

Students must submit their exemption request at least 30 business days before their first planned campus access. Late submissions will not be expedited. Please note that all exemptions are temporary and must be renewed as noted in the instructions and determination letter.

Access to Vaccination
Information on how to schedule an appointment—whether through New York City or through the University—can be found on the vaccine information page of the COVID-19 website.

We hope that you will join us on Thursday, May 13, from 4:00-5:00 PM ET for our next University Life Forum: COVID-19 Update, Vaccines and Planning for Fall Return. This conversation is an opportunity to learn about the University’s ongoing response to the pandemic, vaccine availability and requirements, and more.

Continue to check the Columbia University COVID-19 website periodically over the coming weeks to stay up to date.  We appreciate your participation in this key step that is critical to a successful and safe return to campus in the Fall term.

Be well,

Melanie J Bernitz
Senior Vice President, Columbia Health
Associate Clinical Professor of Medicine (in the Center for Family and Community Medicine)