Oregon State University to require COVID-19 vaccines for students and employees

By Meerah Powell (OPB)
May 5, 2021 12:15 a.m. Updated: May 5, 2021 12:35 a.m.

OSU is the first Oregon public university to announce this decision

Oregon State University announced on Tuesday that it will require COVID-19 vaccinations this fall for all students and employees who learn or work on-campus.

OSU is the first public university in Oregon to make such a decision. Private Oregon universities such as Lewis & Clark, University of Portland and Willamette University have made similar calls.


“As we advance our plans to resume traditional on-site and in-person activities for the 2021-22 academic year, high rates of vaccination among our students, faculty and staff are needed to help improve the safety and well-being of our community,” OSU Interim President Becky Johnson said in a statement. “This vaccination requirement is intended for students and university employees so that we mutually contribute to the greatest level of population protection possible from COVID-19.”

Students who are enrolled exclusively in online classes and people who do not come onsite for university activities will not be required to be vaccinated, but they will be strongly encouraged, university leaders said in the announcement Tuesday.

The university said it will share further details as it finalizes the vaccine requirement policy, including how students and employees will confirm their vaccination status or request an exemption.


“Pursuant to state and federal law, allowable exemptions may be based on a variety of medical, religious or non-medical reasons,” Johnson and OSU Provost Ed Feser said in a message to the campus community.

OSU spokesperson Steve Clark said the university is working with student leadership, the faculty senate and university unions to implement the policy requirement over the next few months.

“Literally within the last week we’ve been in constant consultation with the health authorities; we’ve been reviewing state and federal policies; we’ve talked with local and state public health experts, and we really began to realize the time to announce our plans was right now, and that’s why we acted today,” Clark told OPB Tuesday afternoon.

Clark said there have been “significant conversations” among Oregon’s public universities, but he does not know if they have plans to follow suit with a similar requirement.

Oregon’s second and third largest public universities, Portland State University and the University of Oregon have not made any announcements requiring the COVID-19 vaccine.

UO said Tuesday evening in a statement that the university “continues to follow closely public health requirements, best practices and other factors in determining whether vaccinations will be required in the future for those engaging in face-to-face activities at the UO.”

Like UO, Portland State said it is strongly encouraging but not requiring campus community members to get vaccinated.

“We have not yet finalized Portland State’s COVID-19 vaccine policy announcement,” PSU said in a statement Tuesday. “Our highest priority remains the health and well-being of our students and employees as it has been throughout the pandemic.”