Lawmaker would require N.J. colleges to mandate COVID-19 vaccine

by Sophie Nieto-Munoz, New Jersey Monitor

Many New Jersey colleges and universities put a COVID-19 vaccine requirement in place for students and employees during the pandemic.

Now one lawmaker — who’s also a doctor — is joining a push to make the coronavirus vaccine a legal requirement for all university and college students and employees to attend in-person classes and events.

Under the measure introduced in the Assembly Monday (A4334), higher education institutions would be barred from enrolling students to attend in-person classes or employing people for non-remote work if they have not received the COVID-19 vaccine, beginning in the 2022-2023 academic year. 

The legislation, sponsored by Assemblyman Herb Conaway (D-Burlington), would add the coronavirus vaccine to the list of inoculations students must receive to attend classes in person. The mandate wouldn’t apply to people who attend classes or work remotely.

People could still seek exemptions for the vaccine. Students and other staff would need to provide a written statement either issued by a licensed physician showing valid medical reasons, or explain how the vaccine violates that person’s “bona fide religious tenets or practices.” 

A “general philosophical or moral objection to the vaccine” would not be sufficient, according to the bill. 

Several schools already have policies requiring proof of full vaccination to attend classes in person, including The College of New JerseyKean University, and Ramapo University. Some even require boosters, like RutgersPrinceton, and Stockton universities. 

No other state legislature has required the COVID-19 vaccine for students in higher education, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

The bill has been referred to the Assembly Health Committee, which is not scheduled to meet before the Legislature’s summer recess. An identical Senate bill hasn’t yet received a vote.

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