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Doane joins list of universities requiring students to get a COVID vaccine

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Doane Vaccination Clinic, 4.7

Doane University student Blake Toedtli looks at his arm after receiving a COVID-19 vaccine in April during an on-campus vaccination clinic.

Check out how Nebraska compares with other states on COVID vaccinations of youths age 12-17.

Doane University said it will require students to be vaccinated against the coronavirus before they can return to campus this month.

With its announcement, Doane joins other schools in Nebraska, including Creighton University and Nebraska Wesleyan University, that are requiring students to get a shot before the fall semester.

The decision marks a reversal for some colleges, which said earlier this year they did not plan to mandate a vaccine for the 2021-22 school year.

In an email, President Roger Hughes said Doane made "a very hard decision" after reviewing guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, state and local infection rates, as well as vaccination data.

"We felt requiring vaccination was the best way to 'get back to normal' while ensuring the highest number of positive outcomes," Hughes wrote to students on Friday.

According to a website outlining Doane's plans for the fall, students will be asked to submit a photo of their vaccination card before returning to campus for the start of the fall semester on Aug. 16.

Students can request an exemption on medical or religious grounds, but will be required to submit to routine COVID testing and quarantine if they develop symptoms.

For those who are unable to get a vaccine or choose not to before the start of the semester, Doane will require they receive a negative COVID test no more than 72 hours before their arrival, while also mandating they wear masks in buildings on campus.

Doane also plans to host vaccination clinics on campus for students wishing to get a shot, the university said.

In his email, Hughes said the rise in hospitalizations in 18- to 23-year-olds caused by the highly contagious delta variant played a factor in Doane's decision to put a vaccine mandate in place.

"We approached our decision to provide members of the Doane family with the scientifically safest environment possible while also providing a 'normal' collegiate experience similar to what was expected pre-COVID," Hughes wrote.

On its COVID page, Doane says requiring a vaccine -- more than 80% of faculty have been inoculated -- will allow the liberal arts school to continue operating unabated.

"The experiences Doane is known for -- our close relationships with students and faculty, our campus events, our athletic and performing arts programs -- are far less likely to be interrupted due to quarantines if a majority of our campus populations are fully vaccinated," it says.

With Friday's announcement, Doane joins 600 other colleges and universities in the United States that have made COVID vaccinations mandatory.

Creighton announced in July that students attending its campuses in Omaha and Phoenix would be required to prove they had been vaccinated before returning this fall.

As of Tuesday, 99% of faculty and staff have been vaccinated, while 95% of incoming students submitted their cards by the Aug. 1 deadline -- a requirement to register for courses.

"Those incredible rates certainly allow us more flexibility for a more normal return to campus this fall," spokeswoman Cindy Workman said. "That said, we remain hyper-vigilant, and we will continue to monitor the recommendations of the CDC and consult with our own infectious disease specialists to ensure that we are keeping the Creighton community safe."

Not all colleges and universities are requiring vaccines, however.

The University of Nebraska-Lincoln, the state's largest campus, said it would not require students to be vaccinated before the start of fall classes, but offered prizes, including awards equal to one year of in-state tuition, to incentivize students to do so.

Union College, also in Lincoln, strongly recommends students get vaccinated, President Vinita Sauder said, but would not require it.

"We believe everyone can choose for themselves without endangering others who have been vaccinated," she said. "That's why we've decided not to make vaccination a requirement for the fall."

Reach the writer at 402-473-7120 or cdunker@journalstar.com.

On Twitter @ChrisDunkerLJS

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