Fall 2021 Vaccine Policy Update

April 19, 2021

Dear fellow members of the Columbia community,

We write to update you on an important decision the University has made in our ongoing effort to restore a vibrant and full experience starting with the 2021 fall term.

On the strong recommendation of our public health colleagues, who have advised us so ably throughout this process, President Bollinger and the Columbia University COVID Task Force have decided to make the COVID-19 vaccination mandatory for all students who are present on campus, starting this fall. We will provide religious and medical exemptions, as we do for the influenza and measles vaccines, in accordance with New York State public health laws.

We regard this decision as essential to ensuring the health of Columbia students and the broader University and surrounding community, and also to containing the spread of the virus in New York City, one of the most severely affected locations in the country throughout this past 13 months.

The vaccine mandate for students will be integrated into our Columbia Community Health Compact, an agreement all students are required to sign in order to access campus facilities. The mandate will take its place alongside our testing program and public health protocols, including face covering and physical distancing. Adherence to the Compact has enabled us to maintain a COVID-19 test positivity rate of just 0.39% since June 2020.

Last fall, we asked you to “Keep the Compact,” and you did it. Despite tremendous hardship, Columbia has maintained its academic, research and clinical vitality throughout the current academic year. The vaccine will push us that much closer to the normal campus life we are so eager to restore.

We remain, however, in an uncertain state.  Rates of infection and hospitalization in New York, in particular, remain high.  The state has made great progress in administering over 11 million doses but many more people need to be vaccinated in order to see the anticipated protective effects. We all hope for, and are striving to ensure, a far brighter picture once the fall term starts in September.

Since mid-December 2020, in partnership with NewYork Presbyterian, many of our faculty, staff and students—in fact over 11,000 of you—have been vaccinated through several vaccine sites.  Thousands more have been vaccinated in their own communities in New York State and beyond. We now operate three locations that provide vaccinations to Columbia affiliates, two of which can offer vaccine to their family members, as well as to other patients. Additionally, we have launched a pop-up weekend vaccine site for the surrounding community at the Forum in Manhattanville. The site vaccinated nearly 700 people over the past two weekends.

Our Columbia-operated sites will offer the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines throughout the coming months, and we are committed to providing vaccination to returning students in the fall, if they have not been vaccinated. However, please do not wait until then. We strongly encourage everyone to be vaccinated as soon as possible, including international students. We will announce more details related to this policy in the coming weeks. Additional information, including how to get vaccinated in the fall, deadlines for when students must be vaccinated, how to document that you have been vaccinated by a non-Columbia provider, and how to apply for a religious or medical exemption will be posted on the COVID-19 website in the coming weeks. We also encourage you to participate in the regular town halls that we will continue to host on issues related to COVID-19 and vaccinations throughout the coming months.

More broadly, our fall plans continue to take shape, with the goal of welcoming all students who are able to join us in person back to campus. You will receive a series of updates about these plans in the coming weeks and months.

Sincerely,

Gerry Rosberg
Senior Executive Vice President  

Donna Lynne
Senior Vice President and Chief Operating Officer, CUIMC
University COVID Director