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BRIEF: Western removes COVID-19 vaccine requirement three years into the pandemic

Western students will no longer be required to be vaccinated to enroll in classes starting this summer

Three years into the COVID-19 pandemic, Western Washington University in Bellingham, Wash., will rescind the vaccination requirement in June 2023. The policy was implemented Sept. 16, 2021, requiring students and staff to provide proof of vaccination. // Illustration by Lee Silverstein 

On March 13, Western Washington University students received an email announcing the removal of the COVID-19 vaccine requirement starting in June. 

“Beginning June 12, 2023, Western will no longer require proof of COVID-19 vaccination for students, employees or contractors. This decision follows policy changes at the national and state levels, as well as at several other higher education institutions in Washington,” Western said in the email. 

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Western Washington University in Bellingham, Wash., provides weekly data on positive cases of COVID-19. The Student Health Center offers free rapid antigen testing for COVID-19. On April 11, Western removed masking requirements everywhere apart from healthcare facilities. // Image courtesy of Western Washington University 

On March 3, the Washington State Department of Health rescinded the last remaining mask order for healthcare facilities starting April 3. The DOH still encourages people to wear masks in crowded indoor public spaces. 

“It's a little disheartening to see politics put ahead of students who are immunocompromised, or students who are still masking – my teacher masks every day,” said Maddie Pelkey, a third-year Western student. “And it's really not that hard to keep requiring people to stay vaccinated.” 

According to the DOH Covid Dashboard, as of March 8, Whatcom County has 37 cases per 100,000 people and 5% of hospital beds are occupied by patients with COVID-19. The county currently has a vaccination rate of 71% in the completion of their primary series.

Western’s COVID-19 information website encourages students to stay home if they are sick regardless of the type of illness. Students can visit Western’s COVID-19 response information website to stay current on the university’s response to COVID-19 and for additional resources. 

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