President Folt announces vaccine requirement in State of the University address

USC will require COVID-19 vaccinations for students participating in on-campus activities in the fall, the president said.

USC President Carol Folt announced Monday in the 2021 State of the University address that proof of COVID-19 vaccination would be required for all students, faculty and staff participating in in-person activity on USC campus in the fall.

“It is our intent to require vaccinations,” Folt said in her address. “We have to make sure that people have access to them...but it is our intent to make them required and of course we will have exceptions and we will make good explanations for that for people who have medical or religious reasons,” she added.

An email sent to the USC community today from Provost Charles F. Zukoski outlined more specific policies, procedures and exemptions related to the vaccine requirement.

“Once the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) grants full approval for these vaccines – expected later this summer – our draft policy requires proof of COVID-19 vaccination for all students, faculty, and staff participating in any in-person USC activity or coming to a USC campus or facility,” the email said.

In the fall, USC plans to resume classes primarily in person, occupy USC housing at typical capacity, and resume most student life activities along with indoor and outdoor dining options for students. In light of the new announcement, all of these in-person on-campus activities will now require proof of vaccination.

“If we can have very high levels of vaccination within our community, we really hope that we can resume many of the normal activities including being indoors studying and being in classrooms  that we have done in the past,” USC’s Chief Health Officer Dr.  Sarah Van Orman said.

“We need just about everybody vaccinated to get back to normal,” she added.

“We are pretty much doing what most other schools in California are doing as we move forward,” Folt said in her address. Other California schools such as the University of California and California State University announced earlier this week that returning students, staff and faculty must be fully vaccinated in order to return to campus in the fall.

Despite the requirement, USC students who do not wish to receive the vaccine for medical or religious reasons will be exempt from the policy, Provost Zukoski said.

“Any faculty, staff, or student who is unable to receive an FDA approved COVID-19 vaccine due to a disability or religious practice, belief, or observance, may request an exception to this policy once enacted,” he wrote in the email. Further details about exemption procedures will be announced in the future, Zukoski said.

Unvaccinated individuals, however, may need to continue weekly testing with the university.

“A person who is granted an exception may be required to use additional personal protective equipment or take other actions, such as participation in ongoing testing as directed by the university for the health and safety of the university community,” according to Zukoski.

USC students will be able to prove their vaccination by having their records added to their USC Student Health account.

Students vaccinated at USC Student Health or USC Keck School of Medicine will have their vaccination records automatically uploaded to their Student Health profiles, while those who were vaccinated elsewhere will have to upload an image of their vaccine card to their MySHR account before they plan on gaining access to campus.

Access to campus is currently restricted to those who have completed a Trojan Check, which consists of a COVID-19 test and a series of questions about symptoms and contacts.

USC Student Health at Lyon Center has administered more than 13,000 vaccinations, while most students have received  their vaccinations at other public vaccination sites, according to USC Media Relations spokesperson Jeremy Pepper.

Provost Zukoski also said international students would be allowed to get vaccines not approved in the United States, but in their home countries instead.

“At present, we are accepting all international COVID-19 vaccines that are approved by the World Health Organization (WHO) or any governing regulatory body,” he wrote.

Van Orman urged the entire USC community to get vaccinated, especially through USC’s vaccine resources, as soon as possible in preparation for the fall.

“We have vaccine appointments available today, tomorrow, the next day,” she said, “so if anyone has not yet been able to get their vaccine or they’re thinking about it, come on over.”