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Coronavirus in Texas

St. Edward’s becomes one of the first universities in nation to require COVID-19 vaccine this fall for in-person activities

St. Edward’s is one of a handful of universities across the country to require the COVID-19 vaccine for students and faculty on campus as schools prepare for a more normal college experience this fall.

The Main Building at St. Edward's University on July 28, 2020 in Austin.

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St. Edward’s University, a small, private university in Austin with about 4,300 students, is one of a few universities in the country so far requiring students and employees to get a COVID-19 vaccine for the fall semester if they need to return in person.

According to a campus announcement late last month, people can opt out of the vaccine requirement for religious, medical or personal concerns with the vaccine's Emergency Use Authorization. But they must obtain a notarized exemption document, as is needed for other required vaccines such as the meningitis shot.

If students don’t comply or submit exemption documentation by Sept. 1, they will not be able to live on campus or have access to campus facilities, and will be limited in what courses they can take.

According to the university’s website, officials are planning for more in-person activities this fall, including most classes. Dormitories will be open but limited to one student per room.

Across the country, at least four other colleges and universities have instituted similar vaccination mandates, including Rutgers University in New Jersey, a public university, and Cornell University in New York, which is private.

On Tuesday, Gov. Greg Abbott issued an executive order that would prevent all government agencies, including public universities, from instituting COVID-19 requirements for services. The order also applies to organizations that receive public money.

The governor’s office did not respond to a request for comment about whether this order could affect St. Edward’s. Late Tuesday afternoon, the university released a statement that their order is in compliance with state requirements.

"In compliance with the Governor of Texas' Executive Order GA-35, issued April 5, 2021, the university's policy will not deny services to those submitting documentation or a qualifying exemption," the statement reads. "Qualifying exemptions for students include declining to provide the university an individual's Covid-19 vaccination status."

Disclosure: St. Edward's University has been a financial supporter of The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization that is funded in part by donations from members, foundations and corporate sponsors. Financial supporters play no role in the Tribune’s journalism. Find a complete list of them here.

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