Katherine Merisotis/The Bates Student
Bates will require all students to be vaccinated against COVID-19 before returning to campus for the upcoming fall semester, Dean of Students Josh McIntosh wrote in an email to the student body.
“The very nature of our residential community makes this requirement necessary to protect the health of students and the broader Bates and local communities,” McIntosh explained. “In addition, having a fully vaccinated student body puts us in a better position to return to the many activities and experiences that existed on our campus before the pandemic, but were not possible this academic year.”
Students will need to have received a full treatment of one of the three federally approved vaccines — Pfizer BioNTech, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson — in order to move into campus housing this August. International students without access to vaccines authorized by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration before the start of the semester should reach out to Student Health Support Coordinator & Specialist Brenna Callahan at [email protected].
A fully vaccinated student body may allow the school to move towards offering fully in-person classes instead of hybrid or remote class formats. “We anticipate that most classes will be in person but we are still working through these issues,” McIntosh said.
Unlike this academic year, students will not have the option to take classes from home.
“Each individual who gets fully vaccinated contributes toward a community effort to prevent the spread of COVID-19, and it is the community effort as a whole that will allow us to relax public health policies,” according to FAQs written by Assistant Dean of Students Blake Reilly. “Throughout the summer, based on Maine vaccine acceptance and local community transmission, Bates will comprehensively review public health policy and restrictions.”
The college may still need to operate a COVID-19 testing program, albeit likely in a different format than the current thrice weekly schedule.
“We have been advised by public health experts that we should plan for a flexible and nimble testing program for next fall that would allow us to adapt if things should change in the public health landscape,” McIntosh explained. “We will make decisions about COVID-19 testing for the fall during the summer and then communicate these decisions to students.”
Policies regarding faculty and staff vaccination are still under consideration by the college. However, Reilly anticipates that “the vast majority of the Bates community will be vaccinated by the time students return in the fall.”
Students will be required to submit proof of vaccination to Garnet Gateway prior to arrival on campus. More information about this process will be forthcoming.
Limited medical exemptions will be granted to the vaccine requirement pending the review and approval of Bates Health Services. The college “may limit participation in activities that may be [at] higher risk with regard to transmission” for those who have received medical exemptions.
The state of Maine will be removing religious and philosophical exemptions for mandated immunizations effective September 1. “With this in mind, the college will only be providing medical exemptions,” McIntosh said.
Domestic students who have not yet received the vaccine are eligible in all 50 states and territories. Reilly encouraged students currently on campus to receive the one-shot Johnson & Johnson at retail locations such as Hannaford, where appointments are currently available. Vaccines are provided free of charge for all those residing in the US, regardless of citizenship status.