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SOU Will Join Colleges Across Oregon By Requiring COVID Vaccinations This Fall

Southern Oregon University
Gary Halvorson, Oregon State Archives
File photo of Churchill Hall on the campus of Southern Oregon University in Ashland, Ore.

Southern Oregon University will require students, faculty and staff who will be on campus this fall to get a COVID-19 vaccine or show proof of a medical or nonmedical exemption.

University President Linda Schott says today’s announcement was meant to inform the campus community that vaccinations will be required, though the details of that policy are being discussed.

“What we wanted to do today was let people know where we’re headed. Because some students feel strongly — and faculty and staff — that they don’t want to be back on campus unless they’re confident that there are going to be a lot of people that are vaccinated,” Schott says.

With the announcement, SOU joins the majority of public universities in Oregon by requiring COVID vaccinations. Western Oregon University, Portland State University, University of Oregon and Oregon State University have all announced they will require on-campus personnel to get vaccinated for the fall term. The Oregon Institute of Technology has yet to make a decision on a vaccine requirement.

Schott says policy details still being finalized include whether the required vaccines will need to first have full FDA approval, how the requirement will apply to individuals who have already contracted COVID-19, and how the requirement will be enforced. SOU is in contact with the state’s other universities and the governor’s office about further guidance.

“We’re trying to be very responsive to our community and our region on this, while also following guidance from public health,” she says.

SOU will honor medical and nonmedical exemptions to the vaccine requirement according to Oregon state law. Medical exemptions can be claimed when individuals cannot safely be vaccinated.

Nonmedical exemptions based on an individual’s beliefs can also be claimed. Individuals must watch an online vaccine education module from the state health department and present the university with a vaccine education certificate or speak with a health care provider and have them sign a vaccine education certificate, according to the Oregon Health Authority.

Erik Neumann is the interim news director at Jefferson Public Radio. He earned a master's degree from the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism and joined JPR as a reporter in 2019 after working at NPR member station KUER in Salt Lake City.