Sacred Heart University will require COVID-19 vaccines after all

Photo of Cayla Bamberger
A sign at the entrance to Sacred Heart University's west campus, in Fairfield, Conn. March 10, 2021.

A sign at the entrance to Sacred Heart University’s west campus, in Fairfield, Conn. March 10, 2021.

Ned Gerard / Hearst Connecticut Media

FAIRFIELD — Sacred Heart University has decided to mandate the COVID-19 vaccine for all students, faculty and staff.

The announcement came on Friday, just weeks before many students return to campus. Undergraduate students move in the first week of September, according to the university calendar.

“As you know, it was not our intent to require the vaccine,” SHU’s coronavirus planning team wrote in an email to students, faculty and staff. “However, as we have done throughout the pandemic, we adapt our policies and procedures as we learn and consult with experts and professionals at the highest levels in an effort to keep our community as safe as possible. This practice will continue to guide us as we move forward.”

Sacred Heart attributed the change of heart to the recent rise of the more contagious Delta variant, and the number of their athletic and clinical partners who require the vaccine on their campuses and at their facilities.

The COVID-19 response team also noted that nearly all Connecticut colleges and universities, both public and private, have mandated the vaccine.

Students will be required to have received at least the first dose before move-in, with the second dose to be administered no later than September 15, according to officials.

The university said it will work with its clinical partners to provide vaccinations on campus.

Students and employees will have to submit proof of vaccination.

Exemptions are available for religious or health reasons by request, subject to approval. Under current guidance, which SHU said is subject to change, those who are unvaccinated will need to wear a mask indoors and be tested weekly.

“Please note, nursing and other health students, as well as education students, who receive exemptions from vaccination may be unable to be placed with our clinical partners and schools due to the requirements set by these organizations (not the University), and will therefore be unable to continue to progress in their programs,” wrote SHU. “Similarly, athletes who receive exemptions from Sacred Heart may be unable to compete at other schools due to the vaccination policies at those institutions.”

The mandate does not apply to students in online degree programs who do not have plans to come to campus.