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University of Virginia disenrolls unvaccinated students ahead of fall semester

Officials said 49 students who have registered for fall classes are not in compliance with the school’s vaccine mandate

U-Va. officials said 49 students who have registered for fall classes are not in compliance with the school’s vaccine mandate. (Julia Rendleman/for The Washington Post)
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Forty-nine students who registered for fall classes at the University of Virginia have been disenrolled after failing to meet the school’s vaccine mandate, officials said Friday.

The campus unveiled its vaccine mandate in May and the overwhelming majority of the campus is in compliance, officials said. More than 96 percent of U-Va. students are vaccinated against the coronavirus and 335 students with religious and medical exemptions have been granted permanent waivers, officials said.

An additional 184 temporary waivers were granted to students who have had trouble getting vaccinated but plan to get their shots upon arriving to campus.

Less than 1 percent of students enrolled — or 238 students — are not in compliance, “but only 49 of those students had actually selected courses, meaning that a good number of the remaining 189 may not have been planning to return to the university this fall at all, regardless of our vaccination policy,” said Brian Coy, a school spokesman.

Students have until Aug. 25 to get into compliance and re-enroll for fall semester classes, Coy added. Students can also choose to return to campus in the spring, but only after meeting the vaccination requirement.

University of Virginia to mandate coronavirus vaccines for students

U-Va., along with hundreds of other campuses, unveiled its vaccine mandate for students in May. The university since then has sent students “multiple reminders” about the policy, Coy said in an email.

Students were asked to provide proof of vaccination by July 1, but the university called, texted and emailed those who remained out of compliance, Coy said.

Vaccines remain a key piece of the university’s reopening strategy, Jim Ryan, the university’s president, said at a town hall this month.

“We are in a much better and much different position than we were last year, primarily because of the vaccines and the extraordinarily high vaccination rate in our community,” Ryan said. “This means we can return in person to classes, activities, sporting events and research labs as we have been planning to do in the fall semester, with the residential experiences that are at the heart of this university.”

The highly transmissible delta variant that rose to become the dominant strain of the coronavirus this summer has complicated and, in some cases, upended campus reopening plans. Rice University announced Thursday it would move to online instruction for at least the first two weeks of the semester following a surge of cases in Houston and among the school’s community, officials said.

Some parents worry Florida schools aren't doing enough to protect their kids from the coronavirus as Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) doubles down on his mask mandate ban. (Video: Drea Cornejo/The Washington Post)

Officials at U-Va. and elsewhere remain concerned about breakthrough cases, incidents of the virus in people who have been vaccinated. But vaccines remain one of the best defenses against the virus, Costi Sifri, director of hospital epidemiology at U-Va., said at the town hall.

“They prevent infection and they are very effective in preventing hospitalization and other serious outcomes,” Sifri said. “It remains the case that people who are vaccinated are much safer from infection than unvaccinated people.”