University of Michigan to require COVID-19 vaccines on all three campuses for fall semester

The University of Michigan is joining a growing chorus of institutions and government agencies that will mandate the COVID-19 vaccine for all students, faculty, and staff on its three campuses at the beginning of the fall school semester.

A universitywide vaccine mandate will go into effect for the fall term on its Ann Arbor, Flint, and Dearborn campuses. Anyone that plans to be on the campus at that time will be required to submit their vaccine information before the beginning of classes.

U-M's vaccine rule is part of an evolving mindset in the U.S. as the Delta variant continues to push the coronavirus infection rate up in Michigan and around the country. 

"Widespread vaccination is the primary and most effective tool that will bring the COVID-19 pandemic under control and it is the key to a vibrant and engaging academic year," officials wrote in an email, which was signed by President Mark Schlissel, the executive vice president of academic affairs, the executive vice president of medical affairs, the interim chief financial officer, and chancellors of Flint and Dearborn's campuses. 

The announcement arrives as the CDC is prepared to report that even vaccinated people can spread the highly infectious strain. 

Health officials continue to stress the need for getting vaccinated, arguing inoculation provides even more protection against the virus than a previous infection. Vaccines with approval in the U.S. have also been shown to reduce severe outcomes from the coronavirus.

"We're making this announcement today to allow those who remain unvaccinated the time to begin their vaccination series in the month ahead," the email said. "While we will provide limited exemptions for medical and religious reasons, it is imperative that all members of our community are protected from this devastating virus."

Many of Michigan's hospital chains, including Henry Ford Health, Beaumont, and Spectrum have all announced vaccine mandates for their employees in recent weeks. The federal government and several state and city agencies have also begun rolling out vaccine rules or mandatory weekly testing as well. 

U-M says it will create an exemption process for its three campuses that will be rolled out on Aug. 4. Those individuals who request and are approved for a medical or religious exemption will be required to complete mandatory weekly COVID-19 testing and must continue to mask indoors while on campus.

Any non-compliant students, faculty, or staff will be disciplined. 

As of July 30, 81% of students and 65% of employees on the Ann Arbor campus, and 76% of Michigan Medicine employees already have reported their COVID-19 vaccinations. 

Michigan State University previously announced it wouldn't be mandating vaccines back in June. However, the school announced that vaccines will be required after the Delta variant's spread became a larger public health concern.