djr-2021-03-04-news-classrooms-kbp1

University of Mississippi students take a class in Tad Smith Coliseum.

TUPELO • The University of Mississippi and Mississippi State University will not require students to receive a COVID-19 vaccination before returning to campus for the 2021-22 school year.

Here’s why.

The Institutions of Higher Learning Board of Trustees determines which immunizations will be required before enrolling at a college or university in Mississippi.

As of right now, only the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine is required for all students before registering for classes, according to IHL policy. Students participating in health education programs must also show proof of a Hepatitis B vaccination, and international students must show proof of a test screening for tuberculosis.

IHL Board policy requirements do not currently include the COVID-19 vaccine.

An amendment to that policy would be required before Mississippi’s eight public universities have the authority to require the COVID-19 vaccine or any other vaccine not already mandated.

Both universities do, however, encourage students to be fully vaccinated when they return. The universities have touted several benefits for those who opt to receive the vaccine.

“Vaccinations are our best defense against the spread of COVID-19,” the MSU COVID-19 Task Force wrote in guidance to students.

Fully vaccinated students at UM and MSU will not be required to quarantine if they are exposed to someone with COVID-19, unless they begin showing symptoms of the virus themselves.

Those who have been fully vaccinated will no longer be required to wear masks or practice social distancing on college campuses, but unvaccinated individuals will be encouraged to continue masking.

For Ole Miss students who contract COVID-19 or are in close contact with someone who has the virus and needs to quarantine while at school, “your in-person classes will not switch to online delivery during your time away from class,” Interim Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Dr. Charlotte Fant Pegues said in a letter to students.

“Missing up to two weeks of class could have a major impact on your grade, especially if you miss a test,” the letter went on to say. “Please consider this possibility, along with other benefits of being vaccinated, as you prepare to return to campus in the fall.”

For college students seeking COVID-19 vaccination, appointments can be scheduled at Mississippi State Department of Health walk-in sites across the state at covidvaccine.umc.edu.

On-campus vaccination appointments at UM are currently full, but MSU students can schedule an appointment by visiting covidvaccine.msstate.edu.

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