Cornell University Requiring Covid-19 Vaccine for All Students and Faculty

Campus leaders announce plans to reopen safely.

Cornell University plans to require vaccination for students for the Ithaca, Geneva, and Cornell Tech campuses for the fall semester.

President Martha Pollack and provost Michael Kotlikoff issued a joint April 2 statement outlining the plans and the rationale. Like Texas and many other states, New York plans to reduce the age of Covid-19 vaccine eligibility starting April 6 to those 16 years and older.

Cornell college officials believe enough students and faculty will be fully vaccinated, allowing a safe return to in-person classes.

Cornell University’s proactive stance is in line with other colleges, such as Rutger’s Univerity in New Jersey, requiring staff and student vaccination. Cornell plans to help students qualify and schedule appointments through its vaccine support program. The school is also working to find a solution for enrolled students coming in from other states who have not been vaccinated.

Based on current data, the academic plan is to continue current Covid-19 mitigation strategies. Students and staff are required to wear high-quality mask-wearing. Classes are arranged with special seating to allow social distancing. The campus has worked to improve classroom ventilation.

AntonioGuillem Istock/Getty Images

Current Covid-19 surveillance testing will continue. This data tracking will Cornell to track campus immunity through the Daily Check tool. All faculty and students and faculty must register on the app by April 15th.

The University will monitor the data to determine when the campus reached 50% herd immunity. The leadership anticipates meeting this threshold allowing the camping to return to all in-person learning. If herd immunity is not reached, then the campus will reopen with a remote option.

Cornell University’s decision is in line with the March updated guidance for College campuses from the Center for Disease Control (CDC). The CDC recognizes people attending school in congregated settings are at an increased risk for catching and spreading Covid-19.

The CDC asks each institute of higher learning to implement a Covid-19 screening strategy before the beginning of each term. The CDC asks each school to work with local public health authorities, so that campus policy fits with the disease prevalence in the surrounding area. A universal screening strategy is recommended if sufficient testing capacity is not available for SARS-CoV-2, the virus causing Covid-19.

Many campuses are implementing rapid testing protocols. Rapid antigen testing detects the fragmented pieces of the SARS-CoV-2 virus that trigger an immune response. Like PCR testing, antigen testing detects an active infection but can be done much faster.

The Center for Disease Control (CDC) has approved rapid antigen testing. These FDA-approved tests are a highly accurate way to detect Covid-19 in patients with symptoms. Symptomatic individuals have high viral loads allowing rapid tests to accurately diagnosis Covid-19.

Rapid antigen testing is not as accurate in asymptomatic individuals or those with very low viral loads. The CDC has published a protocol on how to interpret test results.CDC recommends the use of the rapid antigen algorithm.

Chart: CDC.Gov

There are three FDA-approved vaccines for Covid-19. The two messenger RNA vaccines from Moderna and Pfizer offer 95% protection against Covid-19. The Covid-19 vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna use messenger RNA (mRNA). A single strand of mRNA delivers instructions to human cells to produce an antibody against the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein.

The Johnson and Johnson’s Janssen vaccine offers 72% protection against infection and 86% against severe disease. The Janssen vaccine uses Adenovirus 26 (AD26) as the vector to deliver DNA material into our cells to provoke an immune response.

The Moderna and Janssen vaccines are approved for those 18 years old and up. The Pfizer vaccine is approved starting at age 16.

All three vaccines are highly effective in preventing death.


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Dr Jeff Livingston
Dr Jeff Livingston
Jeff is Co-Founder of Medika Life. He is a Board Certified Obgyn and CEO of MacArthur Medical Center in Irving, Texas. He is a nationally recognized thought leader, speaker, writer, blogger, and practicing physician who is considered an expert in the use of social media to educate patients, using new and innovative technology to improve care outcomes and the patient experience.


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