BYU–Hawaii requires COVID-19 vaccine, other Church schools encourage compliance

Here is an aerial photo of the BYU-Hawaii campus where students will be required to be COVID-19 vaccinated for the Fall 2021 Semester. BYU and BYU-Idaho are not requiring students to be vaccinated, but are encouraging it. (Monique Saenz)

BYU–Hawaii announced on June 16 it will require all students to receive the COVID-19 vaccine to come back to school for the fall semester.

The official announcement quotes BYU–Hawaii President John S.K. Kauwe III who said “The decision to add this vaccination requirement was reached after careful consideration of available data about COVID-19 vaccination safety and efficacy and consultation with experts in medicine, public health and epidemiology.”

Assistant to the president Laura Tevaga said BYU–Hawaii has always had certain vaccines the state of Hawaii requires to go to school, so adding the COVID-19 one aligns with the university’s policies. Just like with the policy for other required vaccines, if a student is not vaccinated, they will not be allowed to attend BYU–Hawaii.

Tevaga said students with religious or medical reasoning can apply for an immunization exemption. Students who apply for an immunization exemption will have their case and circumstances reviewed to see if they qualify for an exception. If they meet the exemption criteria, their exemption for the vaccine will be granted. Further details on requirements and qualifications for immunization exemptions can be found on BYU–Hawaii’s health services page.

Based on the student population and the circumstances in Hawaii, Tevaga said requiring vaccination was something BYU–Hawaii felt it needed to do for the school to open in the fall. BYU–Hawaii has not had any in-person classes since the pandemic first shut the school down in March 2020 and Tevaga said requiring vaccination allows the school to have in-person classes while keeping the community and students safe.

BYU, however, is strongly encouraging students and employees to get vaccinated and is even offering vaccine rewards, but is not requiring vaccination.

BYU spokeswoman Carri Jenkins said BYU follows all laws and regulations related to COVID-19 vaccinations so requirements may be needed for travel, certain research or other programs.

BYU-Idaho has provided on-campus clinics for students to get vaccinated and encouraged student compliance with COVID-19 safety protocols which include vaccination.

The Church urges its members to be good global citizens and help quell the pandemic by safeguarding themselves and others through immunization. Individuals are responsible to make their own decision about vaccination,” the COVID-19 updates website states.

No official statements have been made on requiring vaccinations for fall semester and no vaccine rewards have been mentioned.

“Each college and university operated by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has differing needs and requirements. These conditions have been taken into consideration as the CES schools have developed COVID-19 safety protocols,” Jenkins said.

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