Vaccination and the Fall Semester at Boston University

April 9, 2021

Dear Friends,

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 our students who have adhered to our protocols and kept the virus at bay. We all should be grateful to the staffs of Healthway, the Dean of Students and Student Life offices, Dining, Housing, and 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, especially our students. 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 having all our students vaccinated by the start of the fall semester. We believe this will be feasible as vaccines become widely available.

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. I encourage all our students to get the vaccine as soon as possible. The University also will make every effort to vaccinate students if they arrive on campus without vaccination in the fall. As we do for other required vaccinations, we will have a process for accommodating medical and religious exemptions.

We understand that many of our international students may be vaccinated with vaccines that have not been approved for use in the United States. We are assessing how to treat these vaccinations and will communicate with you as soon as possible with guidance. We expect that international vaccines with efficacy similar to US-based vaccines will be accepted to satisfy the intended BU requirement, unless federal or state guidelines mandate otherwise.

It is very important that the University builds 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. Every student is required 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 classrooms, laboratories, dining halls, and recreation facilities to be filled with 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 students 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. Please get vaccinated as soon as possible and share your vaccination documentation information with us.


Robert A. Brown signature
Robert A. Brown