COVID-19 Vaccine Mandates for University Students
24 N.Y.U. J. Legis. Pub. Poły 1 (2021).
Posted: 29 Jun 2021 Last revised: 6 May 2022
Date Written: June 25, 2021
Universities and colleges (“universities”) preparing to reopen after COVID-19 understandably seek to increase safety on campus and reduce the risk of a COVID-19 outbreak. One approach universities and colleges are considering is requiring vaccines from students. This article addresses the legal framework behind university vaccine mandates for students. It sets out the general constitutional framework and explains why universities are constitutionally permitted to impose reasonable vaccine mandates. It addresses whether universities need to offer a religious exemption, explaining that under current Supreme Court jurisprudence universities are likely not required to offer a religious exemption, but that may change, and public universities in states with a Religious Freedom Restoration Act may have to offer a religious exemption. The article discusses how federal disability law will require accommodations under a vaccine mandate in certain cases. The article asks whether the emergency use authorization (EUA) status of current COVID-19 vaccines is a barrier to requiring vaccines from students, and concludes that it is probably not a limit. Acknowledging the complexity of the issue, instead of offering a prescription for all universities, the article offers a matrix of strategies to consider for increasing vaccine rates including vaccine mandates, along with considerations for each option.
Keywords: Vaccines, higher education, public health, universities
JEL Classification: K19, K20
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation