High UH vaccination rates, vaccine mandate will not be enforced to attend class

University of Hawaiʻi
Dan Meisenzahl, (808) 348-4936
Spokesman, UH Communications
Posted: Jul 15, 2021

Link to video: https://bit.ly/3B8K8SM

More than 92% of University of Hawaiʻi students and 95% of UH employees of the 10-campus system have been vaccinated for the COVID-19 virus or plan to be, according to surveys administered in late June. The surveys administered by the UH Vaccination Team found that about 7% of students, and 4% of employees still have no plans to receive a COVID-19 vaccine, with some expressing concern over the lack of full U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval of any COVID-19 vaccine.

The surveys asked participants for their vaccination status and if they were not planning to be vaccinated, why. The student survey was administered to a stratified, randomized sample based on the student body size of each campus. Of the 1,212 students surveyed, 31.1% responded. The employee survey was sent to all 12,280 UH personnel and had a 49% response rate. The results of both surveys can be viewed online here. The university is planning a followup survey of all students in mid-August and will provide assistance in getting vaccinated for anyone interested.

When UH announced that all students would be required to be vaccinated to participate on campus it was with the condition that at least one vaccine was fully approved by the FDA.  That has not yet occurred.  Heartened by the high rate of vaccination among students and employees, UH is confident that under new guidelines being finalized its campuses will be safe even without fully enforcing the mandate when the fall semester begins.  The inclusion of COVID-19 vaccination in UH health clearance requirements for students will remain in place with enforcement limited to student housing residents and other specific activities, events and facilities to be determined. Enforcement of the vaccination requirement to attend in-person classes will take place only after a vaccine is fully approved by the FDA, so will begin no sooner than the spring 2022 semester. 

“The single most important thing our students and employees can do to protect the health and wellbeing of themselves, their families and our campus communities is to be fully vaccinated for the upcoming fall semester,” said UH President David Lassner. “159 million Americans have safely received the vaccine and we are now seeing a growing number of preventable COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths among the unvaccinated. We are leaving the requirement in place, even if not fully enforced, to make the message clear.”

The COVID-19 vaccine requirement will be enforced this fall for students who live in on-campus housing at UH Mānoa and UH Hilo because of the close communal contact. Health and religious exemptions will be available for student residents. Other limitations may apply to the unvaccinated, but they will not be prevented from enrolling in on-campus classes.  New safety guidelines will be released outlining practices to protect all students and employees.  Face coverings will be required while indoors on campus and all students, employees and visitors will still be required to utilize the LumiSight UH health check app, which now includes the ability to easily demonstrate vaccination status. It is reassuring that those already reporting to UH campuses have been diligently following the COVID-19 safety guidelines.  

The high vaccination rate within the UH community along with relatively low infection rates in Hawaiʻi are positive signs heading into the fall semester.  All 10 UH campuses will see dramatic increases in in-person instruction and on-campus activities this fall, with even more on-campus activity planned for the spring semester.


Sound bites (UH President David Lassner):


“More than 92% of our students and 95% of our employees system wide have been or plan to be vaccinated for the COVID-19 virus. About 7% of our students 4% of our no plans to receive a COVID vaccine at that time.”


“When we announced that all students would be required to be vaccinated to participate on campus, it was with the condition, and frankly the expectation, that at least one vaccine would be fully approved by the FDA by the fall semester. Over 500 universities nationwide have announced vaccination requirements and the condition for full approval by the FDA is the same approach taken by for example the University of California and the Cal State University Systems, two of the largest higher education systems in the country. The FDA has not completed the full approval process, so student vaccine mandate is as stated enforcement will be limited to students residing on campus not to attending classes in person. It may also extend to certain other specific activities, events and facilities that will be determined based on the health-risk assessment. Given the high rate of vaccination within our and new guidelines that we’re finalizing now, we’re confident that our campuses will be safe places to learn, live and conduct research. Enforcement at the vaccination requirement to attend in-person classes will take place only after a vaccine is fully authorized by the FDA so that would be no sooner than the Spring 2022 semester. In the meantime, we will continue to reach out to all of our community to educate and to encourage.”