Polis supports Colorado’s colleges and universities requiring COVID-19 vaccine for students

Gov. Jared Polis on Tuesday signaled his support for Colorado’s colleges and universities to require students to be vaccinated against COVID-19 before coming to campus this fall, but stopped short of issuing a statewide mandate to achieve that.

In a statement issued by the Colorado Department of Higher Education, the governor and Angie Paccione, the department’s executive director, said students and parents should expect to see vaccine requirements for the 2021-2022 academic year.

“Vaccines are the gateway to ending this pandemic,” Polis said in the statement. “That is why I expect that most higher education institutions will provide parents and students the peace of mind they want by making vaccines a requirement for next fall, and students want to get vaccinated so they can enjoy the full college experience. Those two or four years fly by quickly, and students have already missed out on so many important social experiences over the last few semesters.”

So far, only Fort Lewis College in Durango, the University of Denver and Colorado College in Colorado Springs have announced a vaccine requirement for students returning or starting school this fall. They join a growing list of higher education institutions across the country that are doing so, including the University of California and California State University systems.

“After discussions with our institution presidents and the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, we think it’s appropriate to expect our colleges and universities to require students to be fully vaccinated this fall,” Paccione said. “With the recent uptick in cases and the rise in variants, we want to do what we can to protect the health and welfare of our students, faculty, staff and communities. We strongly urge our students to get fully vaccinated and be prepared for in-person instruction and campus activities.”

Colorado state law long has mandated college students be vaccinated against measles, mumps and rubella, with exemptions possible due to religion and medical conditions.

Without a statewide mandate, the decision to require a COVID-19 shot to return to campus still lies with the universities.

Representatives of Colorado State University, the Colorado Community College System and the University of Colorado — which saw one of the state’s largest virus outbreaks tied to its Boulder campus last fall  — previously told The Denver Post they strongly encouraged students and faculty to get vaccinated, and that discussions about whether to require the shots were ongoing.

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