Federal judge backs college COVID-19 vaccine requirements

Posted at 5:41 PM, Jul 20, 2021

BALTIMORE (WMAR) — Kids under 12 have yet to be cleared to get any of the three COVID-19 vaccines. That's expected to change this winter. But most college students in our area will have to get the shot if they want to return to campus.

According to Best Colleges, 12 Maryland institutions and the entire University System of Maryland are requiring the COVID-19 vaccine for students this fall.

Loyola University is one of them, requiring vaccinations for students come august first, unless they can prove a religious or medical exemption.

"Most of my friends and most of my classmates have gotten it so I think it’s going to be a good year," said senior Katie West. "I’m so excited I cannot wait."

"We are really looking forward to having things back to normal," said Loyola University Maryland Senior Vice President Terrence Sawyer.

While Saywer said they haven’t had students challenge their requirement, it’s been controversial nationwide.

Eight students sued Indiana University and lost. This week, the judge sided with the public institution, saying the students did not show they would suffer irreparable harm and that the university has acted reasonably in the interest of public health.

It affirmed the decision many Maryland colleges have made to require students to be vaccinated. It also gives public institutions legal precedent if it becomes a problem as students return to campus.

"Baltimore is a college town. We have many institutions and many college students here and I think it’s consoling that public institutions as well as private will be able to require vaccinations if they think that’s the best thing to do for their student body and overall community," said Sawyer.

University of Maryland students have also been involved in the study of the vaccines. As part of the first nationwide study tracking the transmission of the virus, they got the Moderna vaccine and have been tested regularly to see how COVID spreads between vaccinated people.

"I am continually impressed with the commitment that young people in the state of Maryland have in both contributing to the science and doing the work to put the pandemic behind us," said Neil Sehgal, the lead investigator for study at UMD.

When it ends next month, Sehgal hopes to be able to continue with new participants, as the Delta variant increases case numbers.

"To try to better capture the potential change in pandemic associated risks that the Delta variant poses," said Sehgal.

He said they are looking to enroll community members as well.