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Growing number of colleges are requiring students to get vaccine

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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration’s recommended pause of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine coincides with a push by some U.S. colleges and universities to require students to be inoculated by the fall semester.

At least a dozen schools are mandating students be vaccinated before returning to campus, including Rutgers University. Jonathan Holloway, President of Rutgers University, was the first to announce the university will require the COVID-19 vaccine for students.

His tenure at the university started just as the coronavirus pandemic began. Come fall 2021, he said he wants his students back on campus but to do that, students need the vaccine.

“How did the student body react when you made the announcement?” CBS News’ Meg Oliver asked Holloway.

“The reaction has been wholly positive. They know that this is the path to reopening,” he said.

One student who is excited to return to a classroom is Miriam Jackson. She is a freshman at Rutgers, but her college experience has been anything but typical.

“I didn’t get to do the whole prom thing. I didn’t really get to do the whole full graduation thing,” she said.

After missing out on her senior year of high school’s most memorable moments, Jackson now attends college classes from her childhood bedroom. She said she has no reservations about her plans on getting the vaccine.

“Not really. I don’t really have any reservations, and I never really had any reservations,” Jackson said.

Holloway said he also doesn’t have any reservations about requiring students to receive the vaccine before long-term studies have been completed.

But some students do have hesitations about the vaccine and so do some of their parents. Holloway said there will be some exemptions allowed, but simply not wanting to take the vaccine will not be an option.

“What happens to a student who doesn’t want to get the vaccine? What kind of options do they have?” Oliver asked.¬†

“There are always going to be exemptions for religious reasons and for health reasons. For those who simply don’t want to, the fact is, there are lots of other options for them, for their education. I hate to say it that harshly, but that’s the fact we will have the safest possible campus,” he said.

Most colleges and universities already mandate several vaccines, like Measles, Mumps, and Rubella, also known as MMR.

But COVID-19 vaccines are more complicated. They were greenlit by the FDA under an emergency use authorization which allows for use of a drug before it’s approved. Howell said he is confident that the university can legally mandate the vaccine.

“Well, we feel very comfortable, according to New Jersey state law, that we have the ability to make that decision for the safety of the community,” he said.

“You feel like you can stand on legal ground and do this?” Oliver asked.

“Oh, I feel very comfortable where we stand on legal ground based on the New Jersey state law that gives us the ability to make this decision,” Howell replied.

CBS News Legal Analyst Rikki Klieman agrees with Howell but said there will still be some legal challenges.

“It absolutely is legal. Colleges and universities throughout the country, just like employers, always have the right to enforce the public health,” she said.

“Do you think universities and colleges will end up in court over this?” Oliver asked.

“I have no doubt that there will be legal challenges. These are not vaccines like others for colleges and universities that have stood the test of time. So it is an avenue for a legal challenge. It doesn’t necessarily mean that it will be successful,” Klieman said.

Rutgers hopes it can start administering COVID-19 vaccines on campus soon.

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