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Indiana Universities Weigh Requiring Vaccines, Hope For A Return To Normal

A Purdue student is vaccinated on the first day of the university's clinic (WBAA News/Ben Thorp)

Both private and public universities in Indiana have announced they will be requiring students, faculty, and staff to receive the COVID-19 vaccine before returning to campus in the fall.



Those universities say vaccination will be an important step in returning to normal. 

At least six universities in Indiana will require students to be vaccinated before returning to campus in the fall - including the University of Notre Dame, Valparaiso University, and DePauw University. 

Most of the schools are private universities - but last week Indiana University announced it will require students, faculty, and staff all get vaccinated before the fall semester. 

Dr. Lana Dbeibo is the Director for vaccine initiatives at IU and said the step is important for returning the campus to normal. 

“I don’t think the IU community wants to go into IU knowing that maybe 60% are vaccinated - or not knowing how many are vaccinated,” she said. “Especially having immunocompromised conditions.”

Dbeibo said the campus community has shown a high compliance with various COVID-19 precautions over the course of the pandemic, but the university still felt it was important to require vaccinations in order to “establish expectations.”

“I think leaving it out for people’s timelines might get it to the level we want, knowing the engagement of the IU community, but it might not be in the right time for the fall,” she said.

All students, faculty, and staff will be required to get their first vaccine by July 1st. IU, like other schools mandating the vaccine, will allow medical and religious exemptions.

Actual numbers of vaccinated individuals on campuses have been difficult to identify and largely rely on self-reporting. IU has said less than 50% of the university population has been vaccinated. Notre Dame has reported roughly 90% of their student population is vaccinated.

And at Purdue University, which has so far not made plans to require vaccination, officials say they are unsure how many students have been vaccinated. The most recent update from the university indicated more than 18,000 individuals have been vaccinated through the university clinic. 

The clinic has been open to students, faculty, and staff as well as immediate family members and university retirees.

The Tippecanoe County Health Department offered vaccination numbers for college age groups but noted there was no way to differentiate Purdue students in those numbers. Among the fully vaccinated population in the county, 8.4% are aged 16-19 and 18.2% are aged 20-24. 

Willie Reed, Dean of the Purdue College of Veterinary Medicine, said self-reporting should eventually give them a better picture of their vaccinated population.

“I think eventually we’ll have an idea of how many have received the vaccine and how many have decided not to receive it,” he said.

Purdue President Mitch Daniels has encouraged the school community to get vaccinated. Those who do not will continue to be subjected to COVID-19 testing and could be excluded from university events.

Ball State University has also not made vaccination a requirement for its return to campus, but officials have described a desire to return to a more “traditional” campus plan that will still include COVID quarantining, testing, and tracing. 

A spokesperson for Ball State University said in a statement that they would not require the vaccine as long as it falls under the Food and Drug Administration’s  Emergency Use Authorization, but will still “encourage and incentivize” employees and students to get vaccinated. 

As of Monday, over 400 universities across the country will require at least some of the campus community to get vaccinated.