WSU will remove the personal/philosophical exemption to receiving the COVID-19 vaccine once the vaccine is approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
Students are now required to be compliant with receiving the vaccine or an exemption by Sept. 10, said Joel Schwartzkopf, Cougar Health Services executive director.
The vaccine is currently available under an emergency use authorization, Schwartzkopf said.
An EUA is put in place to treat emergency conditions that could not be treated otherwise, according to an FDA article.
“[The EUA] doesn’t mean the vaccine is unsafe or experimental,” Schwartzkopf said. “With nearly 360 million COVID vaccines now having been given in the U.S. under the emergency approval by the FDA, it is encouraging to think of how many lives have been saved by having the vaccines available to us.”
Once the EUA is replaced by full approval, students will have a 45-day window to start the vaccination process or get a medical or religious exemption.
“It’s not like on Sept. 10 you lose your personal exemption; it’s really dependent on when the EUA goes away,” he said. “We do need everyone to be compliant with the policy by Sept. 10 so that we can track who’s had the shot and who has which kind of exemption.”
Guy Palmer, WSU Global Health senior director, said he anticipates the vaccine will receive FDA approval within the next couple of weeks.
Palmer said students should start preparing for the personal exemption to be removed as soon as possible.
“It’s not a matter of if there’s going to be full FDA approval and this absolute requirement without personal exemption,” he said. “It’s going to happen.”
If students are not compliant by Sept. 10, they will receive a hold on their student accounts and will not be able to sign up for spring classes, said Phil Weiler, WSU vice president of marketing and communications.
“We have to protect the whole community, all of our students, faculty and staff,” Palmer said.
He said some students are hesitant to get the vaccine and have procrastinated getting it. Having it as a requirement will help students make the decision to get vaccinated.
Some students are unsure about receiving the vaccine because they have heard different messages on how well it works. Palmer said receiving FDA approval will help those students feel more comfortable getting the vaccine.
As of Thursday, 56.7 percent of WSU Pullman students were compliant with the vaccine policies, with a 93.3 percent vaccination rate from those students who have complied, Schwartzkopf said. Around 11,000 students submitted either an exemption request or their vaccine card.
*Editor’s note: This article has been updated from a previous version. Non-compliant students will not lose access to Canvas or be blocked from entering university facilities. They will be blocked from registering for spring classes.