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WKSU, our public radio partners in Ohio and across the region and NPR are all continuing to work on stories on the latest developments with the coronavirus and COVID-19 so that we can keep you informed.

Kent State, University of Akron Mandate COVID-19 Vaccine

syringe and vile of medicine
Kent State and the University of Akron are both requiring students, faculty and staff to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, with some exceptions.

Kent State and the University of Akron have announced plans to require students, faculty and staff to get the COVID-19 vaccine. This decision comes after the Pfizer vaccine was was granted full approval from the Food Drug Administration earlier this week, with full approval of the Moderna vaccine expected next month.

The decision comes as COVID-19 cases spike due to the delta variant and students return to school. Ohio reported more than 5,000 new cases on Thursday, the highest numbers since January, before vaccines were widely accessible.

Kent State's vaccine requirement makes exceptions for medical and religious/personal reasons and will be phased in throughout the fall semester to give people time to get vaccinated. The plan begins with an expansion of testing for the virus starting Sept. 1; unvaccinated students living on campus will be tested twice a week, while off campus unvaccinated students and unvaccinated employees will be tested once a week.

At this time, the requirement covers students and only non-represented employees, not faculty or staff represented by unions. In an email, university spokesman Eric Mansfield said "We are currently engaged in positive and productive talks with the leadership for our union faculty and staff with the intent to include them as well."

Students and employees have until Dec. 20 to be fully vaccinated, with the caveat that booster shots may be required in the future. The university says more information about implementation of this requirement will be available in the coming weeks.

The University of Akron is requiring students, faculty, contract professionals and staff to be fully vaccinated by Dec. 13 and to provide proof of vaccination. Exemptions will be made for medical reasons, religious beliefs or reasons of conscience. Students who are not vaccinated and do not have an exemption granted by the university will not be able to enroll for the spring semester. Faculty, contract professionals and staff who are not vaccinated and do not have an exemption granted by the university will be subject to progressive discipline in keeping with university policy and collective bargaining agreements. This requirement does not apply to College Credit Plus, Early College High Schools and the National Inventor's Hall of Fame STEM High School students.

Although the deadline to be vaccinated is Dec. 13, UA states that areas on campus may be required to get vaccinated sooner due to safety concerns. Students and employees who are not vaccinated or have not reported their vaccination status yet will be tested weekly and required to wear a mask indoors and outdoors when unable to maintain social distancing, even if university protocols on masking change.

Vaccines are available on both Kent State's and the University of Akron's campuses.

Corrected: August 29, 2021 at 6:49 AM EDT
This story originally stated that all Kent State University faculty and staff would be required to get vaccinated.
Abigail Bottar covers Akron, Canton, Kent and the surrounding areas for Ideastream Public Media.