All Georgetown University undergraduate and graduate students returning to campus for the fall 2021 semester will be required to receive the COVID-19 vaccination.
The decision to mandate the COVID-19 vaccine for students returning to campus was guided by consultations with Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Ranit Mishori, the university’s public health advisory group and leaders in the Georgetown community, according to an April 14 announcement from President John J. DeGioia (CAS ’79, GRD ’95). The university has yet to decide whether faculty and staff will be required to receive a COVID-19 vaccination before returning to campus, according to Georgetown’s COVID-19 vaccine FAQ webpage.
Vaccines will enable the university to protect the health and safety of the Georgetown community in anticipation of a full return to campus in the upcoming academic year, according to DeGioia.
“We will require undergraduate and graduate students at the Main Campus, Medical Center, and Law Center to receive a COVID-19 vaccination for the fall semester,” DeGioia wrote in an email announcement to the Georgetown community. “Vaccination rates have already begun to have an impact in decreasing the number of COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations, and deaths.”
Most students support having a COVID-19 vaccine requirement for the fall, according to a survey circulated by the Georgetown University Student Association Senate on April 12 that received 121 responses. According to survey results obtained by The Hoya, 58.7% of respondents supported requiring COVID-19 vaccination for any student living, working and/or learning on campus, while an additional 24.8% would support requiring vaccinations if Georgetown became a vaccination site. The remaining 16.5% of votes were against requiring COVID-19 vaccinations for students on campus.
While GUSA leaders are supportive of the vaccination requirement and are encouraging students to get vaccinated, they hope the university will ensure accessibility, according to the executive GUSA Chief of Staff William Leonard (COL ’23).
“We also support the University taking all measures possible to alleviate issues of access, especially for international students, and we hope the University obtains clearance to become a COVID-19 vaccine distribution site,” Leonard wrote in an email to The Hoya. “The COVID-19 vaccine requirement is an admirable and sensible step to ensure that our campus is healthy and fully functioning in the fall.”
All adults in the United States will become eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine April 19. Georgetown does not currently have its own supply of vaccines, but the university is in conversation with the Washington, D.C. government and hopes to receive a vaccine allotment.
For students who do not have access to the COVID-19 vaccine in their home state or country, the university has said it will provide guidance about the process of getting vaccinated upon their arrival in the District.
The university, however, is still determining a COVID-19 vaccine policy for international students, according to the university announcement.
If the university requires international students to be vaccinated, students will be challenged with the additional stress of returning to the United States earlier than usual to get vaccinated before the start of the semester, according to Renato Llontop Calosi (SFS ’24), an international student who is currently living at home in Peru.
“This creates a need to create new schedules to be in the U.S. before the fall semester starts and maybe could cause financial constraints because not so many students are able to pay for their plane tickets to be in the U.S. by then,” Calosi said in an interview with The Hoya. “Where are they going to live if the campus is still not open, and they are still not vaccinated to be allowed on campus?”
A COVID-19 vaccination will not be required for students completing summer coursework on campus. This includes students attending the Summer Hilltop Immersion Program, a new program introduced to provide first-year and transfer students with the opportunity to experience an in-person, on-campus experience for five weeks after a year of virtual learning because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
In addition, students with religious and medical exemptions who cannot receive the vaccine will still be allowed to return to campus in accordance with federal and local law, according to the university announcement. Members of Georgetown’s religious communities, however, have urged students to receive the COVID-19 vaccine if they are able to, according to Arianna Turner (COL ’21), president of the Georgetown Latter-day Saints Student Association.
All members of Georgetown’s community have an obligation to protect and care for one another, which includes getting vaccinated against COVID-19 when possible, according to Turner.
“While we certainly support the expression of religious freedom on Georgetown’s campus, there are few if any major religions that recommend against vaccination,” Turner wrote in an email to The Hoya. “We therefore believe that everyone who is able to get the vaccine should receive it when it is their turn to do so.”
In addition to Georgetown, American University will also require all students to be vaccinated before the fall semester. As the first two D.C. universities to mandate the vaccine, American and Georgetown have shown leadership in the D.C. community, according to D.C. Mayor Muriel Browser (D).
“I applaud them,” Bowser said in an interview with 7News DC. “We want them to be able to get open, have in-person experiences, have college life, and we know that vaccinations will help them do that.”
Update: This article was updated to correct a misspelling of Arianna Turner