Rutgers University drops COVID-19 vaccine mandate



(The Center Square) — New Jersey’s Rutgers University is dropping its controversial COVID-19 vaccine mandate for students and staff nearly a year after federal and state restrictions expired.

The public university announced that beginning on April 1, it won’t require staff and students to be fully vaccinated against COVID to attend classes and live on campus.

“Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Rutgers has followed scientific guidance from our own health experts and federal health care organizations, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, to determine requirements to best protect our community members,” Rutgers spokesperson Dory Devlin said in a statement.

“We committed to follow public health trends and adjust our policies as needed, as we have done today,” Devlin added.

Rutgers originally imposed its vaccine mandate in March 2021, but last year, college leaders made a controversial decision to extend the policy for the 2023-24 school year, requiring students to provide proof of immunization to enroll in classes.

The mandate was extended despite the U.S. Centers for Disease Control officially calling an end to the pandemic and the Biden administration’s decision to allow the federal public health emergency to expire in May 2023, citing vaccination data and declining infections.

The move prompted a backlash online, with some calling for a boycott of the university, comparing it to Bud Light’s recent controversy over its use of a transgender influencer to market its beer.

Last June, Gov. Phil Murphy dropped a COVID-19 vaccine mandate for health care workers, ending one of the last vestiges of the state’s pandemic-related restrictions.

Unlike many Northeast states, New Jersey didn’t mandate vaccines for state workers and allowed them to be tested for the virus instead, in some cases twice a week.

In 2021, Rutgers was sued by Children’s Health Defense, an anti-vaccine group created by Democratic presidential hopeful Robert F. Kennedy, over the vaccine mandate, but a federal judge rejected the legal challenge.

At least 40 colleges and universities still require students to be vaccinated to attend classes in person, according to No College Mandates, which tracks COVID-19 policies in higher education.

New Jersey Republicans, who had called for the university’s leadership to resign over the continued vaccine mandate, praised the move to finally lift the requirements.

“I’m glad Rutgers decided to join the rest of the enlightened world by finally lifting its COVID-19 vaccine requirement,” state Sen. Declan O’Scanlon, R-Little Silver, a vocal critic of the university’s vaccine mandate, said in a statement.

But O’Scanlon said the taxpayer-funded university “doesn’t deserve additional praise” for the policy change and said he hopes its leader “learns something from their failures” and makes “significant changes” to their regulations.

“How many students have had their academic careers sidelined because of Rutgers’ absurd, anti-science vaccine policy? How many professors, adjuncts, and staff members were forced to take a vaccine that they didn’t want, but felt compelled to take it so they wouldn’t lose their jobs?”

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