Arizona universities discuss mandating COVID-19 vaccines for students, staff

Arizona’s universities are discussing whether or not to make the COVID-19 vaccine mandatory for students and staff for the fall semester.

So far, none of the state’s largest colleges have announced a decision.

Rutgers University was the first college in the country to announce that it would require students to have been vaccinated if they plan to attend classes for the fall semester.

University of Arizona officials said in a news conference on Monday, that as of March 29, it's not mandating the vaccine for students and staff for legal reasons.

"Because the vaccine is under an emergency use authorization, we can’t mandate it," said UArizona President Robert Robbins.

The university recently reached a milestone in vaccinating more than 100,000 people on its campus. However, officials say there are still legal roadblocks, to making the vaccine mandatory for students and staff

Dr. Richard Carmona, re-entry task force director with UArizona, says, "It’s a complex issue. We work closely with our legal team here to get answers to those questions because we want to stay within the boundaries of the law. In some cases, it’s not clearly defined and in other areas, it’s a risk-benefit analysis."

Grand Canyon University officials say they’re working with health officials to gather evidence and determine whether the COVID-19 vaccine could be required by law, similar to vaccines for polio and other diseases.

Arizona State University officials are also looking into a COVID-19 vaccine requirement.

A recent survey of 1,000 college students by College Pulse, found that nearly 70% supported a vaccine mandate.

Those FOX 10 spoke with on the ASU campus had mixed reactions.

"I don’t really have a strong opinion on it at this point. So if that’s what the university thinks is best, I guess that’s the way I’m going. I’m just taking it one day at a time," said Edward Garcia, ASU staff member.

Caitlin Estes is an ASU freshman and says, "I think it’s just like any other vaccination. When I applied to ASU I had to submit a record of certain vaccinations that I already had as a child. So adding one more vaccine to the list isn’t a big deal to me. I think it’s something we can all do to have a solution."

Arizona health officials are strongly recommending that students and staff get the vaccine, saying they've detected the UK strain of the virus on campus.

Arizona campuses are offering both in-person and virtual classes and have kept mask mandates.