Emory University will mandate all University faculty and staff to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 ahead of the fall semester, University President Gregory Fenves announced in a July 27 email. Any exemption requests “based on medical contraindications or strong personal objections” must be submitted by Aug. 16.

Contractors who have “a regular presence on campus” are also subject to the University’s vaccination policies and testing protocols, Amir St. Clair, associate vice president and executive director for COVID-19 response and recovery, wrote in a July 27 email.

Over 85% of the Emory community, which includes students, faculty and staff, are fully vaccinated, the announcement stated. According to the University’s COVID-19 Dashboard, 11,501 (76.7%) students and 12,822 (85.2%) faculty and staff are fully vaccinated as of July 27. The dashboard accounts for individuals whose vaccination status is available through Emory’s student health portal or Emory’s employee health medical record system.

The university will require that all students, faculty and staff are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 for the fall 2021 semester. (Creative Commons/ SELF Magazine).

The new requirements follow a July 11 petition by Emory College faculty asking the University to require all returning staff, faculty and post-doctoral fellows to be fully vaccinated two weeks prior to the start of classes in the fall semester. 

The University previously announced in April that students must be fully vaccinated to return to in person learning. 

“The pandemic is not over,” Fenves wrote. “With the spread of the Delta variant and rising COVID-19 cases in Georgia, we must remain committed to protecting the health of the Emory community, and it starts with getting vaccinated.”

Professor of History Clifton Crais, who organized the petition, wrote in a July 27 email to the Wheel that he was “not consulted” about the decision and was informed about the University’s updated policy about two minutes before it was released.

“The July 27 announcement … is welcome news, even if it comes weeks, and in some cases months, after other institutions have mandated vaccines for all employees in addition to students,” Crais wrote. “Clearly, time is of the essence and we all have a lot of work to do to ensure everyone is vaccinated.” 

COVID-19 cases in Georgia have increased 158% over the past two weeks, with cases in DeKalb county up 221% over the same period. The U.S. has seen a 144% rise in cases over the last two weeks, with the delta variant causing spikes in a number of states.

The University’s updated policy mirrors earlier decisions at peer institutions, including Johns Hopkins University (Md.), Vanderbilt University (Tenn.) and Duke University (N.C.), all of which require students, faculty and staff to be fully vaccinated. 

If an Emory community member is still in the process of being vaccinated by the time they arrive on campus, they are required to complete weekly COVID-19 screening tests until they are fully vaccinated, two weeks after their final dose, the email stated. 

Crais wrote that he looks forward to seeing the details of the revised policy, as he still has questions about whether Emory Healthcare is included in the updated requirement and if “faculty” and “staff” mean all University employees. 

“I hope in the coming days the University leadership will continue making improvements to its COVID-19 policy to ensure that we all have a safe research and learning environment,” Crais wrote.