CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (WNCN) – With two weeks to go before the start of the semester, some faculty members at UNC-Chapel Hill are calling for a COVID-19 vaccine mandate for students, faculty, and staff.
The Faculty Executive Committee held a special virtual meeting on Wednesday to address their concerns that without a mandate and other safety precautions, the University could face a repeat of last year’s COVID clusters and outbreaks.
UNC Junior Frank Fang supports the idea.
“I think mandating a vaccine is a reasonable move because since there’s so many vaccines that are required before the enrollment of students. So I think adding one more is reasonable,” he said.
Sophomore Albert Bright added, “If everyone is vaccinated, it would prevent the possibility of us being sent home like what happened in the first semester.”
UNC Vice Chancellor and Provost Bob Bouin said the University doesn’t have the authority to mandate vaccines.
This letter from the UNC system states it is up to Commission on Public Health to mandate vaccines, which already requires students to receive the diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough, poliomyelitis, red measles and rubella vaccines before school.
CBS 17 asked if the Commission is considering adding the COVID-19 vaccine to that list, but has not heard back.
UNC’s current policy for the fall semester requires unvaccinated students to get tested 24 hours before they return to campus on August 18, and once a week for the remainder of the semester.
Students who say they are vaccinated won’t have to get tested. As of Aug. 1, UNC says 81 percent of students and 63 percent of employees have attested to being vaccinated through the CarolinaConnect website.
But Bouin said being vaccinated is based on the honor system, and that students and faculty aren’t required to show proof.
The Faculty Executive Committee wants the policy changed.
“Students attest to being vaccinated subject to the honor code,” Bouin said of the policy. “The second is they can voluntarily indicate the date and make of the vaccine they were administered. Third is they can upload the vaccination card and once that’s uploaded, we can certify that it at least looks and appears to be accurate and fourth, we can do an audit. That final level of verification is very time-consuming.”
Members of the committee also expressed concerns that some students are buying and forging CDC COVID-19 documentation cards. They also want the verification process to be more thorough.
UNC will require masks on campus for the fall semester, regardless of vaccination. Bouin also added that UNC has no current indoor or outdoor gathering restrictions and that there will be no social distancing in classrooms.