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VP Carey discusses student COVID-19 vaccine requirement for fall, COVID-19 protocol moving forward

As positive asymptomatic cases decline, U. advocates for vaccinations; COVID-19 variants do not pose changes to operations

Sixteen University community members tested positive for COVID-19 through the asymptomatic testing program from April 1 to April 7, Executive Vice President for Planning and Policy Russell Carey ’91 MA’06 told The Herald in a conversation April 8. Seven positive cases were on-campus students, six were off-campus students and three were employees. The positive cases are “moving in a very good direction,” Carey said, and have declined consistently over the past two weeks. The Healthy Brown COVID-19 Dashboard is also back in service after security issues were resolved.

Symptomatic positive cases have also decreased. There were fewer than five cases this week compared to between five and 10 the previous week, he said.

The University will require all students returning to campus for the fall semester to receive COVID-19 vaccinations as part of a return to a traditional semester, The Herald previously reported

“I don't think there'll be any issue with supply and access within the U.S.,” Carey said. In addition to all adults becoming eligible for the vaccine within two weeks, “we anticipate the volume of supply of vaccine is going to increase dramatically, even in the next month,” he said.

The requirement of COVID-19 vaccines may be more complicated for international students. With different levels of vaccine supply and types of vaccines being supplied in each country, Health Services is actively working on determining which vaccines are acceptable for meeting the University’s requirement, he said. 

The University will follow its model of communication with international students about required vaccines to live on-campus during a normal school year to inform them of COVID-19 vaccine protocol. “We are confident that we can work it out,” Carey said.

The decision to require student vaccinations was communicated at this time with newly admitted students in mind, who will be making decisions on attending Brown in the coming weeks, Carey said. The University hopes to be “really clear” to students about “what will be expected of them,” he said. 

Another motivation for the vaccine mandate is the fact that students “are in congregate living situations,” such as dorms, “more than other members of the community,” Carey said. The state requires certain vaccines for students that it does not require of other community members, such as the meningitis vaccine, due to the greater risk of illness spreading within residence halls, he added. 

The requirement of COVID-19 vaccines for employees in the fall is still under review. Legal concerns unique to individuals employed by Brown, among other issues, need to be addressed before a decision is made, Carey said.  

The University encourages all community members to receive the vaccine regardless of previous infection of COVID-19, Carey said. “I feel very confident (from) .... everything we've seen and everything we've heard from the CDC, the Rhode Island Department of Health and our own faculty and staff who are experts in medicine that (the) vaccines that are available are safe and effective.” Information on the Healthy Brown website addressing safety concerns of the vaccine is informed and written by faculty experts, he added. 

RIDOH has not confirmed any cases of COVID-19 variants on campus, Carey said. But “it’s safe to assume that … some number of (positive test results) might be variants because we know it’s circulating in the community at large.” The University’s current measure against variants is to promote a fast pace of vaccination, he said. With the declining number of positive cases, the University has not seen a need to make changes to operations, he said. 

Carey reflected on the second in-person semester since the COVID-19 pandemic began, as the spring semester nears its end. “It's not been easy … for everybody involved,” Carey said. “Everybody deserves a lot of credit and should really (just) appreciate themselves and each other for keeping each other safe,” he said. 

“We're especially grateful to the staff who are working in-person and who are supporting and protecting and helping students every day,” Carey said.


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