Anthony Fauci, chief medical advisor to President Joe Biden, endorsed COVID-19 vaccine mandates for universities and schools on MSNBC's Morning Joe on Tuesday.
"We are in a critical situation now," said Fauci, director of the National Institute for Allergies and Infectious Diseases. "We've had 615,000+ deaths and we are in a major surge now as we're going into the fall into the school season. This is very serious business. You would wish that people would see why it's so important to get vaccinated.
"You're not going to get mandates centrally from the federal government," he continued. " But when you're talking about local mandates, mandates for schools, for teachers, for universities, for colleges, I'm sorry, I know people must like to have their individual freedom and not be told to do something, but I think we're in such a serious situation now that under certain circumstances mandates should be done."
Fauci added that he expects more universities will feel empowered to mandate vaccines after they gain full approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Currently, the three publicly available COVID-19 vaccines are approved through the FDA's emergency use authorization process.
The New York Times reported last week that the FDA expects to give full approval to the Pfizer vaccine by early September.
More than 600 colleges have mandated COVID-19 vaccines to date, according to a tracker maintained by The Chronicle of Higher Education.
University of Arizona President Robert C. Robbins said on Monday the university would require face masks and COVID-19 vaccination if it were permitted under state law, the Arizona Republic reported. Some Arizona K-12 schools are defying the state prohibition on mandating vaccines or masking.
"The ideal would be that we could require everyone to be vaccinated, we could require everyone to cover their face, we could require many things that other places are doing but we cannot do (that) here because of state law," Robbins, a cardiac surgeon, said during a briefing on the university's plans on Monday.
Arizona is one of a number of Republican-led states with laws or executive orders in place prohibiting public colleges from requiring vaccines or imposing other public health measures such as mandatory masking or testing for unvaccinated individuals.
West Virginia Wesleyan College is not currently requiring COVID-19 vaccination, but it is charging students a $750 non-refundable fee if they do not provide proof of vaccination by Sept. 7.
"The COVID Fee covers the cost of weekly surveillance testing, contact tracing, up to 48 hours of quarantine, including meal delivery and laundry facilities, and cleaning and sanitation efforts," the college says in a FAQ on its website./p>
The college will waive the fee for students who are unable to get the vaccine for medical reasons.
College dean James Moore told WBOY that the fee is helping to improve the college's vaccination rate. "We've seen quite a number of students who weren't vaccinated reach out to us and say 'Can I get vaccinated when I get to campus? I'm willing to do so.' So it's starting to move the needle on our vaccination rate which was already really, really good," he said.
West Virginia Wesleyan College will also charge a $250 fee for students who need to quarantine on campus beyond an initial 48-hour period.
"The College will provide a 48-hour window of contained housing for any student who may contract COVID-19 or who may have been exposed to COVID-19 during the Fall 2021 Semester," it says on its website. "Following that time period, students will be responsible for housing arrangements off campus until they receive clearance by a medical professional to return to campus. Students who are unable to return home or make other arrangements may complete the remainder of their quarantine on campus for a $250 fee. All classes will be made available online through Blackboard."
Meanwhile, faculty and staff at dozens of colleges are worried about how easy it is for individuals to get around vaccine mandates by buying fake vaccine cards, the Associated Press reported. Various websites sell fake vaccination cards, and students interviewed by the AP said they were aware of efforts to obtain fraudulent cards.
A global health professor at UNC-Chapel Hill said on Twitter last week that he'd spoken with several students who were worried about the availability of fake vaccine cards and that they knew of a fellow student who had submitted one to the university.
UNC said in a statement that it was conducting periodic verification of documents. The university said lying about vaccination status or falsifying documents could result in disciplinary action.
"It's important to note that UNC-Chapel Hill has not found any instances of a student uploading a fake vaccine card. Those claims are simply hearsay at this point," the university said.