COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Cleveland State University said Thursday it will continue to require that students living on campus be vaccinated against the coronavirus despite a new law prohibiting public schools and colleges in Ohio from mandating the vaccine.
The school, the only public university in the state with such a requirement, said the mandate will continue since the fall term begins Aug. 21 and the law doesn’t take effect until October.
“Over the last three semesters, our students, faculty, and staff have worked hard to keep our community safe,” said spokesperson Allison Bibb-Carson. “As a result, Cleveland State University achieved one of lowest infection rates among urban universities in the country.”
About 1,000 Cleveland State students live on campus out of a total enrollment of nearly 16,000 students. Medical and religious exemptions are available, Bibb-Carson said.
The university said it would comply with the law once it takes effect.
The bill signed into law Wednesday by Republican Gov. Mike DeWine and aimed at the coronavirus vaccine bans public schools and colleges from requiring individuals to receive vaccines not granted full approval by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
The bill, which takes effect Oct. 12, would also prohibit individuals who don’t receive emergency use vaccines from being denied the chance to participate in school activities such as sports.
DeWine signed the legislation just hours after his top medical advisor warned that vaccination trends have led to the development of “two Ohios” when it comes to combating the coronavirus, increasing vulnerability to the disease’s highly contagious delta variant.
A day before signing the bill, the governor said the FDA needs to move coronavirus vaccines from emergency use authorization to full approval as soon as possible. He said the emergency element is leading to vaccine hesitancy in the state.
On Thursday, a DeWine spokesperson said the governor is confident the ban won’t be needed for long.
The prohibition “was limited to vaccines that do not have full FDA approval,” said Dan Tierney. “We are confident that these vaccines, proven repeatedly to be very safe and very effective, will be approved by the FDA, thus rendering this issue moot.”
Moderna and Pfizer have both begun the process to win full regulatory approval.
Last month, Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchison also called on the FDA to issue full approval, saying the lack of it was leading to vaccine hesitancy in his state.
“We need to get that research completed so it can be final approval — I think that will help,” Hutchison said on CBS’ Face the Nation.
In North Carolina on Thursday, Dr. Mandy Cohen, the state’s top public health official, called the vaccines safe and effective and subject to rigorous clinical trials and review before their implementation.
“I’m hoping the FDA is working as rapidly as possible to get to full approval for the vaccine,” said Cohen, the state’s Health and Human Services secretary.
A handful of private colleges in Ohio that are requiring students to be vaccinated, including Ohio Wesleyan University in Delaware and Kenyon College in Gambier, won’t be affected by the law.
“We continue to believe that immunization is the best way to promote the health of our community,” said Kenyon spokesperson Janet Marsden.
The Ohio prohibition was a last-minute GOP addition to a bill aimed at minimizing disruptions for children of military families moving into or out of school districts as a result of their parents’ deployments.
House Republicans are also pushing another bill that would prohibit employers, either public or private, from requiring employees to receive vaccinations. The measure before the GOP-controlled House Health Committee has attracted multiple opponents of COVID-19 vaccines but does not mention the coronavirus. Instead, it addresses mandatory requirements for all vaccines, such as for the flu.
Lawmakers adjourned for the summer without moving the bill out of committee. It’s opposed by every major business group in Ohio along with multiple medical, hospital and health care groups.
Associated Press writers Andrew DeMillo in Little Rock, Arkansas, and Bryan Anderson in Raleigh, North Carolina, contributed to this report.