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COVID-19 Update: Vaccine Requirements for Fall 2021

Dear Emerson students,

I am writing today to share updates regarding the requirement for all students to be vaccinated prior to arrival to campus for the Fall 2021 term. More information will be shared as we continue to monitor and review guidance over the summer.

Thank you for your continued cooperation and I hope you are well.

Erik Muurisepp
COVID-19 Lead
AVP, Campus Life

Why is Emerson requiring vaccinations for COVID-19?

Emerson is requiring students to be fully vaccinated for COVID-19 in order to protect the health and safety of our community, particularly people at increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19. The vaccinations are extremely effective and the best tool we have to ensure that we can have a safe academic year. 

Who is included in the vaccination requirement?

Students studying at any of our campuses will be required to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19. Faculty and staff are expected to be fully vaccinated. 

What vaccines are available in the U.S.? How can I get vaccinated now?

At this time, students must receive one of the following vaccines in order to meet the fully vaccinated requirement:

  • Pfizer–BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine (two doses, 3 weeks apart)
  • Moderna COVID-19 vaccine (two doses, 4 weeks apart)
  • Janssen/Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine (one dose)

You may obtain your vaccination(s) in Massachusetts or out-of-state. 

You do not have to obtain your second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine (Pfizer or Moderna) at the same location as your first vaccination. 

Any member of the community in the Boston area over the age of 16 can book themselves an appointment at https://www.tuftsmcvaccine.org/.  All vaccine appointments are being administered at the Courtyard by Marriott Boston Downtown, 279 Tremont Street, Boston.  If you are having trouble booking an appointment via the website, you can call the vaccine booking center directly at 617-636-6119 for assistance. 

You may also obtain your vaccination from CVS, Walgreens, Walmart, and other mass distributors. 

What does it mean to be “fully” vaccinated?

Public health officials consider an individual to be fully vaccinated two weeks after their final dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.

By what date must students be fully vaccinated?

In order to begin the Fall semester with a fully vaccinated community, we are requiring all students to be fully vaccinated for COVID-19 by July 15. Students who are in roles that arrive to campus early (i.e., resident assistants, ISPMs, orientation leaders) need to be fully vaccinated prior to their move-in date. 

Once you receive your vaccine, please make sure you keep a record of your vaccine documentation and then log into your Student Health Portal to enter the dates of your vaccines and upload your records. Center for Health and Wellness staff will verify your documentation. 

Do I need to be vaccinated if I have already had COVID-19?

Yes. Anyone who has previously tested positive for COVID-19 will still be required to be vaccinated. The immunity acquired post-infection lasts about 90 days. The immunity acquired post-vaccination lasts much longer.

Students who have had COVID-19 may receive the vaccine as soon as they have completed their isolation period. 

What happens if I don’t want to be vaccinated?

We are requiring that all students studying in person on any of our campuses be vaccinated prior to arriving to campus in order to protect the health and safety of the campus and surrounding communities. Unless an exemption is granted under a formal review process (see below), you will not be permitted to enroll in or attend classes on any of our campuses without documentation of COVID-19 vaccination(s). If you have a concern about the vaccination requirement, please send an email to healthservices@emerson.edu.

There will be two permitted exemptions to the College’s vaccination requirement, as is the case with every mandated vaccine at Emerson.

  • Medical: A medical exemption will be granted to students for whom receiving the COVID-19 vaccination is medically inadvisable, as well as persons who are pregnant or lactating or expressing milk for a nursing child who choose not to get vaccinated. The Request for Student Vaccine Exemption form must be signed with supporting documentation from the student’s primary care provider. Submitted documentation must say why it is medically inadvisable to receive any of the COVID-19 vaccines. These forms must be uploaded to the Student Health Portal by July 15. The College will then be in touch with students to review the medical exemption request.
  • Religious: Consistent with the law, an exemption will be granted to those with a sincerely held religious belief against vaccination. Students seeking this exemption must submit the Request for Student Vaccine Exemption form indicating their sincere religious objection to vaccination written in their own voice (the letter will not be accepted if written by a parent or a religious authority). If the student is under 18 years old, a parent’s signature is required on the exemption request form. The documentation must be uploaded to the Student Health Portal. The College will then be in touch with students to review the religious exemption request.

If I have an exemption and am not vaccinated what can/can’t I participate in?

If you are granted an exemption, the College anticipates that you will be able to participate in courses, activities, and intercollegiate athletics, where you must follow COVID-19 protocols determined by the federal, state, and city requirements at the time, as well as College safety guidelines.

If I am vaccinated, do I have to wear a mask?

The CDC has issued guidance for use of face coverings for individuals who have been vaccinated. The Boston campus will continue to comply with all mandates from government authorities for mask wearing, and reserves the right to implement other measures for community safety consistent with public health guidance. More information will be shared over the summer. Emerson Los Angeles and Kasteel Well will provide updates for those locations. 

If I am vaccinated, is there any limit to my movement on campus?

Emerson will follow the guidance and requirements of local authorities and public health best practices for any physical distancing and occupancy limits on our campuses.

What if I don’t believe the vaccines are safe?

The following websites provide information on the safety and efficacy of the COVID-19 vaccine:

Which vaccine should I get?

The CDC recommends that the best COVID-19 vaccine is the first one available to you. Specific information about each of the approved vaccines is available on the CDC website.

Will the College be requiring other vaccinations for students?

Massachusetts requires students to be vaccinated against certain diseases. As mandated by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, Emerson requires students to submit and update their medical documentation to the Student Health Portal. 

For International Students:

Emerson College understands the unique issues international students may face regarding obtaining a COVID-19 vaccination in your home country. We know COVID-19 vaccinations may not be readily available in some countries. Emerson continues to develop a plan for international students to be vaccinated once in the U.S., if you are not already fully vaccinated before you arrive. Depending on changes in recommendations, international students may need to arrive in the U.S. earlier than the beginning of the semester to allow for an on-time start of the academic year. More information about this will be sent to international students this summer.  

Currently, Emerson will only accept vaccines that have received FDA Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) approval (or full approval when that is issued). At this time, Emerson also plans to permit students to arrive on campus and start classes if they have had a vaccine that is non-EUA-approved, but has been approved by the World Health Organization. The College will assess these vaccinations on a case-by-case basis, and such students will be offered and encouraged (and in some cases required) to get another immunization based on their individual circumstances and public health information.

International students who do not have access to any vaccine by July 15 will be able to arrive early to Boston and receive an FDA EUA (or fully) approved vaccine prior to the start of the academic year. 

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