Pandemic Task Force head backs college COVID vaccine requirements

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ST. LOUIS–On Wednesday, Washington University in St. Louis announced it would require students in the fall to be vaccinated against COVID-19.

“Vaccination against COVID-19 will play a key role in allowing us to resume our regular activities, protect our community, and prevent the spread of illness both on our campuses and in the St. Louis region, including, importantly, the patients we serve in our hospitals,” campus leaders said in an open letter Wednesday. Students with medical or religious justifications will be exempted from the requirement.

The move drew praise from Dr. Alex Garza in a Wednesday briefing of the St. Louis Metropolitan Pandemic Task Force.

“As we saw last fall, when schools opened up, there was large outbreaks of virus in a lot of college campuses,” Garza said. “In order to reduce the risk of that occurring again in the fall with outbreaks of COVID the very best strategy is to get the student body vaccinated.”

According to the Task Force’s daily tracking data, which has a 48 hour delay, there were 41 daily hospital admissions for COVID-19, a vicinity the region hasn’t been able to get beneath in the last month.

When asked his opinion of what was driving vaccine hesitancy in the region, Garza said it wasn’t a single factor but likely a combination of factors, including logistical hurdles, education, concerns about the vaccine and political ideology.

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