Under New State Law, Keene State Will Not Require COVID Vaccines This Fall | State


Despite full FDA approval on Monday of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine, New Hampshire’s public university system, which includes Keene State, will not require vaccination this fall due to a new law. the state that prohibits such a warrant.

House Bill 220, the so-called “medical freedom in immunization” law, prevents the New Hampshire university system from making the coronavirus vaccine mandatory, USNH spokeswoman Lisa Thorne said on Monday. Thorne told The Sentinel in May, before the new law was passed, that the system would decide whether to impose a coronavirus vaccine on students and employees “if permanent vaccine approval is granted by the FDA “.

For people 16 and older, this happened Monday morning for the Pfizer vaccine, one of three vaccines that had previously received emergency use authorization from the federal agency. The FDA grants emergency use authorization for rigorously tested medical treatments during public health emergencies, such as the COVID-19 pandemic. Full approval came after the agency analyzed additional safety and efficacy data that Pfizer submitted in May.

But the new state law, which Governor Chris Sununu signed at the end of last month, makes it illegal to require a COVID-19 vaccine “in order to secure, receive, or access any public facility, any public benefit or any public service of the State of New Hampshire, ”including public schools in the State.

Along with Keene State, New Hampshire’s university system includes UNH in Durham, Plymouth State University, and Granite State College in Concord.

Although the New Hampshire university system does not require a COVID-19 vaccine, Thorne said schools have made their own individual plans to monitor the effects of the pandemic on their campuses and mitigate the spread of the disease.

“At this point, our institutions have plans in place for arrival testing and surveillance testing and protocols around masking and other security processes and are in regular contact with [the state health department] and health partners for best practices, to monitor levels of Covid cases and stay on top of trends that could impact safety, ”she said in an email.

All students and employees in Keene State will be tested for COVID-19 when they arrive on campus this week, regardless of their immunization status, said university spokeswoman Kelly Ricaurte. Freshmen move into their dorms on Wednesday, while returning students return next weekend before the first day of class next Monday. Keene State has approximately 3,000 students and 600 employees.

“Last week, Keene State performed over 300 tests, all of which were negative,” Ricaurte said in an email. “Weekly surveillance tests are scheduled for all members of the Keene State community during the month of September – at this point there are no plans to [weekly] surveillance tests beyond September, but [the frequency of campus-wide testing] will depend on results during the month as well as case rates in the city and region. “

Anyone who tests positive for the novel coronavirus in Keene State will be contacted by the school’s rapid response team, which will provide instructions for isolating and quarantining close unvaccinated contacts of those tested. positive. Fully vaccinated students and employees who come in close contact with infected people will not need to self-quarantine, Ricaurte said.

Along with COVID-19 testing, Keene State will begin the new academic year with a mask requirement in campus buildings and for outdoor gatherings of more than 10 people, according to the college’s plan to reopen. Going forward, Keene State plans to adjust its COVID-19 protocols for masking, testing and collection limits based on data, including case rates on campus and in Cheshire County. , as well as student and staff vaccination rates.

Although Keene State does not mandate a COVID-19 vaccine, the college still strongly encourages all students and employees to get vaccinated and provide the school’s wellness center with proof of vaccination. via a confidential online portal. On Monday, Ricaurte said about 69% of faculty and staff and 46% of students provided proof of vaccination.

“But our students haven’t arrived yet, and we expect an increase in documentation from the entire college community quickly at the start of the semester,” Ricaurte said. “We are convinced that the number of people vaccinated is actually higher – we continue to encourage both the vaccination and the uploading of proof of vaccination in college.”

At Franklin Pierce University in Rindge, the other residential college in the Monadnock area, about 99% of students and 95% of full-time faculty and staff have been vaccinated against COVID-19, the door said on Monday. – spoken by Kathryn Grosso Gann.

Franklin Pierce, who is not subject to the new state law because it is a private school, this year is demanding that students and employees be vaccinated against the coronavirus. Franklin Pierce students and employees can get a warrant exemption for medical or religious reasons, although unvaccinated people with an approved exemption must undergo weekly COVID-19 testing, Gann said.

Franklin Pierce has approximately 1,200 students and 235 faculty and staff at its Rindge campus and, like Keene State, offers full face-to-face classes this year. Students started moving to campus last Sunday and classes started last Wednesday. On Monday, the university reported a COVID-19 infection.

These articles are shared by partners of the Granite State News Collaborative as part of our Race and Fairness Project. For more information, visit collaborativenh.org.

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