University of Washington to require COVID-19 vaccinations for students before fall semester

The University of Washington, the state's largest university, has joined at least three other Washington colleges in requiring COVID-19 vaccinations for students before the start of school this fall.

UW officials said they haven't decided yet whether faculty and staff will also have to be vaccinated. 

"Widespread vaccination is the only real way we can put the COVID-19 pandemic behind us and return to a more normal way of living, learning and working," UW President Ana Mari Cauce wrote in a message to students and staff. "Our community is one that cares — about each other and about the state and society we serve. For your health, and for the health of us all, please get vaccinated as soon as you can."

There is still six weeks left in the spring quarter, which gives unvaccinated students who are in the area time to get a vaccine before the summer begins, school officials said. 

"It’s the safest option just because everyone has different health issues or health backgrounds. So, I think it’s important to be accommodating to the community," said Tansy Huang, at sophomore at UW.

"I’m a [resident assistant] on campus, and personally I just feel safer next year knowing that pretty much everyone, unless they have an exception, is going to be vaccinated," said Daniel Lahn, a sophomore at UW.

The vaccination requirements extend to all three of UW's campuses. 

RELATED: Washington to allow 'vaccinated sections,' increasing capacity at sports arenas and other venues

Vaccinations are free at UW Medicine hospitals — including at the UW Medical Center – Montlake on the Seattle campus — as well as at mass vaccination sites in Seattle and in Pierce and Snohomish counties. The mass vaccination sites at Lumen Field in Seattle and the Tacoma Dome in Tacoma are allowing walk-in vaccinations with no appointment needed. 

"The university has provided a lot of resources and has been notifying students through email and text messages that there are vaccine options available," said Zizhen Song, a junior at UW.

Students will need to verify they have been vaccinated before the start of the fall quarter unless they are claiming a medical, religious or philosophical exemption. 

If students aren’t able to get vaccinated where they currently live, the university will provide vaccinations to students once they arrive on campus. More details will be released in early summer. 

Jaren Hutchings, from Nevada, said he wants to have a true college experience. The UW freshman said it has been he was not expecting to learn from home for the whole year.

"You don’t meet as many people, you don’t make as many friends, you don’t get to form the same relationships with professors and teaching staff. It’s really just not the experience that I came here for and paid for. And I know it’s a necessary evil during COVID but I’m itching to get back to normal ," said Hutchings.

The freshman said he supports the university's requirement, as it will give him a chance to sit in a college classroom for the first time.

"I want to go to events, meet new people, go to a football game. I know it’s probably weird for a college student to say they’re excited to go to class, but I just want to sit down and go to an in-person lecture," said Hutchings.

Other schools requiring vaccines

Most of Washington's major colleges — Washington State University, Pacific Lutheran University, Central Washington University, Western Washington University and Seattle University — will require proof of COVID-19 vaccinations before the fall semester. At WSU, faculty and staff are included in the requirements. 

Eastern Washington University has said they will not require vaccinations at this time. 

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