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UC And Cal State Systems To Require COVID-19 Vaccinations For In-Person Fall Classes


California State University announced a new rule for this fall. Students and staff who hope to return to campus will need a COVID-19 vaccine in order to do so. This is a big deal because Cal State is the country's largest university system. The University of California announced the same rule. NPR's Vanessa Romo reports on their effort to enforce it.

VANESSA ROMO, BYLINE: The vaccine requirement at California's 33 public universities will affect a tremendous amount of people.

CARRIE BYINGTON: We decided that the impact would be even greater if we work together because these are two very large systems with approximately a million students and employees.

ROMO: That is Dr. Carrie Byington. She's executive vice president of University of California Health and an infectious disease expert. She says there is one stipulation - the new rules will only go into effect once the Food and Drug Administration gives full approval to the COVID-19 vaccines. The Pfizer and Moderna shots only have an emergency use authorization. That's a federal shortcut that allows people to get vaccinated while the companies collect more data.

BYINGTON: We're very confident, given the safety data so far, that at least one vaccine will be fully licensed by the fall.

ROMO: Pfizer expects to apply for full authorization soon, and Moderna says it'll apply sometime this year. The mandate is a huge relief for Arie Lea Kuo, a third-year student at Cal State LA, even though she got her second Moderna shot about a month ago. She commutes to campus from home, where she lives with her parents and her sister. And in addition to being a full-time student, she also works one-on-one with a child with disabilities.

ARIE LEA KUO: And I go to his house, and I work there. And it kind of scared me being told that I was going to have to go back to school in the fall while I still had this job and, like, have to expose myself to so many people every day.

ROMO: University leaders say they're announcing the change now to give students and staff the time to get vaccinated. It also gives the schools more time to alter their plans if the companies don't yet have full FDA approval.

Vanessa Romo, NPR News, Los Angeles. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Vanessa Romo is a reporter for NPR's News Desk. She covers breaking news on a wide range of topics, weighing in daily on everything from immigration and the treatment of migrant children, to a war-crimes trial where a witness claimed he was the actual killer, to an alleged sex cult. She has also covered the occasional cat-clinging-to-the-hood-of-a-car story.