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Illinois colleges weigh mandatory vaccine requirements

SIUE is asking students to get a vaccine and wear masks.

EDWARDSVILLE, Ill. — College students are just a few weeks away from returning to campus and there’s a new push by the Illinois Board of Higher Education to make vaccinations mandatory.

With summer session in full swing, the SIU-Edwardsville campus is quiet, and many students say in the era of COVID that’s a good thing.

“Some people are still wearing masks around campus,” said Heather Milder. “The buildings all have signs saying you need to wear a mask inside.”

Many SIU-Edwardsville students gave the school a passing grade for their approach to the pandemic.

“SIUE is pushing that if you don’t have the vaccine you don’t have to get tested weekly and you don’t have to wear a mask as much,” said Milder. “I got my second dose in January."

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“They’re giving people the opportunity to not get vaccinated if they so choose but they’re still required to do wear the masks and do the distancing,” said Thomas Hagan.

Schools like Northwestern, DePaul, and the University of Illinois system are requiring students to be vaccinated if they want to attend in-person classes during the fall semester.

“I would hope that people have the wherewithal to get the vaccines voluntarily,” said Josh Montgomery.

However, SIU-Edwardsville administrators have decided not to follow the guidance from the Illinois Board of Higher Education and will not mandate vaccines. This is a change from last month, when SIUE President Dan Mahony sent a letter asking every student to get the shot.

“We don’t think it’s fair that we would put that type of requirement on our students three weeks out,” said SIU-Edwardsville Covid Response Coordinator Michael Schultz.  “At this point for the fall semester we’re just going with mandatory testing.”

“If one campus is not pushing it while another one says you need to be vaccinated or we need to test you it can be confusing,” said Milder.

“Data tells a story, and we make our decisions based on data,” said Schultz.

Schultz says SIU-Edwardsville will continue working with the Madison Co. Health Dept. to monitor the latest COVID numbers and make sure students have access to vaccines. 

RELATED: St. Louis task force urges everyone to wear a mask as COVID cases increase

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