The University of Iowa ‘strongly encourages’ students, faculty, and staff to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, but won’t require it

The University of Iowa reported 12 new COVID-19 cases on campus. The UI urges students, faculty and staff to get the COVID-19 vaccine, but it is not mandatory on campus.



Syringes for the COVID-19 vaccine lay on a counter at the VA Medical Center in Iowa City on Tuesday, Dec. 22, 2020. The center received the Moderna vaccine for its employees.

Sabine Martin, News Reporter

The University of Iowa is strongly encouraging students, faculty, and staff to receive the COVID-19 vaccine — but as of now, won’t require it — as scheduling eligibility opened across the state to all adults this week.  

This week marked the first that the university inoculated some students on campus who expressed interest in receiving the vaccine with an allocation of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

Come fall 2021, the vaccine won’t be mandatory on campus as of now, a step being considered by other universities across the country. The UI does require that students show proof of two MMR vaccines — which protect against measles, mumps, and rubella.

“The Iowa Code authorizes the Iowa Department of Public Health to evaluate vaccination requirements, and the UI follows its determinations and guidance,” the email stated. 

So far, one Big Ten university — Rutgers University in New Jersey — will require students to be inoculated before returning to campus in fall 2021. The roughly 42,000-student campus will allow exemptions for religious or medical reasons, however.  Other universities, including Cornell University in New York, Brown in Rhode Island, Syracuse in New York, Northeastern in Boston, Nova Southeastern University in Florida, and Fort Lewis College in Colorado have all announced similar policies.

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds has made it clear she opposes vaccination requirements, and said during a press conference that her office was considering executive or legislative action preventing so-called vaccine passports — a form of proof some universities and businesses are using to ensure students and patrons are vaccinated.

“While I believe in the efficacy of the vaccine enough to get it myself and encourage Iowans to do the same, I also respect that it’s a personal choice,” Reynolds, a Republican, said. “I strongly oppose vaccine passports and I believe that we must take a stand as a state against them.”

After receiving an allotment of COVID-19 vaccines from the state, the UI began scheduling UI students to be immunized with the one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine in an effort to vaccinate students before they leave campus for the summer. This UI has vaccinated students who met previous eligibility criteria through Student Health since late January.

It will take time to get everyone scheduled for vaccination because of unknown shipments of vaccines, according to Friday’s update.

The UI urged campus to be patient as leaders must work with the number of vaccines available from the state and federal government. Wednesday, Reynolds told reporters that Iowa is preparing for fewer allocations of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. It’s unclear how that will affect the university’s allocations, though Sarah Ekstrand, a spokesperson for the Iowa Department of Public Health wrote in an email to the DI on Wednesday that UI will receive 1,000 Johnson & Johnson vaccine doses for students, and 1,170 Pfizer doses for faculty and staff next week.

“We are moving through the supply as quickly as we can,” the campuswide email said Friday. 

The UI also reported a total of 12 new COVID-19 cases since April 7 in the email.  

Students wishing to be vaccinated can fill out the COVID-19 immunization survey through UI Student Health. 

UI employees can be vaccinated through the University Employee Health Clinic, the UI said. Both avenues for vaccination require a survey to begin the process of scheduling an appointment. 

The number of vaccines we can give is dependent on the number of doses we receive from the state and county, so it will take time to get everyone scheduled for vaccination,” the UI said.  

According to Iowa Department of Public Health data, 45,784 Johnson County residents have received two doses of the COVID-19 vaccine. 

“If you can be vaccinated sooner at an approved location, such as a local pharmacy, we encourage you to do so,” the UI said.

Editor’s note: this article has been updated to make clear that Student Health began vaccinating students with Johnson & Johnson the week it was written. Student Health has also been vaccinating students in priority groups since January.