Vaccination and the Fall Semester at Boston University: Letter to Faculty and Staff

April 12, 2021

Dear Colleagues,

We are moving closer to the end of the spring semester and the completion of a successful academic year, even with the COVID-19 virus in our midst. Throughout the year, we have maintained our residential campuses by adopting a rigorous set of public health protocols, coupled with a comprehensive testing program using the BU COVID-19 Laboratory, contact tracing, isolation of people with the virus, and quarantine of their close contacts. I am extremely proud of all the members of the BU community who have adhered to our protocols and kept the virus at bay. We all should be grateful to the staff of Healthway and all the others across the University who have, with enormous effort, kept us as safe as possible.

The effectiveness of the vaccines against COVID-19 and their increasing availability is our route to a much more normal fall semester on our campuses. As we have all heard, these vaccines are effective at greatly reducing the spread of the disease, but more importantly they are very effective at preventing serious illness and hospitalization.

Our goal is to move to a “new normal” in the fall that includes only minimal social distancing, where all our facilities are open, students can move freely between residences, and guests are welcome. The key to achieving this state will be vaccination of nearly everyone in our community. Models estimate that we need to have the vast majority of our community vaccinated to return to the campus life that looks much like our pre-pandemic routine. Today, we are beginning what will be a vigorous campaign with the goal of encouraging everyone to get vaccinated by the start of the fall semester. We believe this will be feasible as vaccines become widely available.

As part of this campaign, Boston University will require all students enrolled in classes on our campuses to be vaccinated before the start of classes in the fall of 2021, and we are strongly encouraging faculty and staff to get vaccinated as soon as you are eligible. We are also assessing whether vaccination against COVID-19 should be mandatory for faculty and staff. We will continue to consult with public health experts and use the best scientific evidence available in the weeks ahead as we make this decision. Similar to the policy for students, if Boston University decides to make the vaccine mandatory for faculty and staff, medical and religious exemptions will be granted, and reasonable accommodations will be provided under applicable law.

It is also very important that the University build an accurate database of vaccinations in our community in order to best design our public health protocols for the fall. Detailed instructions for how to provide this information will be coming soon from Healthway. I am asking every faculty and staff member to upload this documentation as soon as they have completed their vaccination.

With vaccination we can achieve the “new normal” and return campus life to something very close to our pre-pandemic norm. We expect our facilities to be filled with faculty, staff, and students who are vaccinated. Even so, because the vaccines are not 100% effective at preventing disease spread, we will use some public health protocols. Mask wearing in gatherings, such as in classrooms, may be required, at least as we start the fall semester. We also will continue testing in the community to monitor any resurgence of the virus and continue the contact tracing that has proven so effective this year. However, we will follow the guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and plan not to require quarantine for asymptomatic vaccinated faculty and staff who are close contacts.

Creating a safe living and learning environment for Boston University has to be the goal of our entire community. Each of us has the responsibility for doing our share. Toward that end, please get vaccinated as soon as possible and share your vaccination documentation information with us.


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Robert A. Brown