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College senior Laura Beck receives a dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine on April 21.

Credit: Chase Sutton

Penn will require all students to receive the COVID-19 vaccine before returning to campus for the fall semester, which the University expects to hold in person. 

Penn President Amy Gutmann, Provost Wendell Pritchett, and Executive Vice President Craig Carnaroli wrote in an email to the Penn community on Thursday afternoon that the University expects that masks will still be required in many locations on campus and COVID-19 testing may still be mandatory. Exceptions to the vaccination requirement will only be provided for medical or religious reasons.

The University is expecting to begin the fall semester on schedule, with the first day of classes on August 31. Undergraduate courses will be "primarily delivered in person," with some larger classes held online or in a hybrid format.

Most faculty and staff will also return to in-person work by the beginning of July and academic research will resume in person in the fall semester. Both the return to in-person work and research will be guided by current public health guidelines in the city of Philadelphia.

The administrators wrote that "mass vaccination [is] central to our commitment to having a safe campus environment." 

Chief Wellness Officer Benoit Dubé told The Daily Pennsylvanian on April 27 that the decision to mandate the COVID-19 vaccine was made in an effort to protect the health of the Penn community, as well as the West Philadelphia community.

"At the end of the day, protecting the health of our community and our neighbors just trumped everything else," Dubé said. 

Students who are unable to receive the vaccine before the beginning of the fall semester will have the opportunity to receive the vaccine at the beginning of the semester at an on-campus vaccination site, but they will have to quarantine between doses.

Many peer institutions — including Columbia University and Yale University — have said they will require students to receive the vaccine prior to returning to campus in the fall. 

Faculty and staff are not required to receive a vaccine to return to campus at this time, but the University "strongly encourages" them to be vaccinated.

College Houses and dining halls will also return to normal occupancy and operation style, but will feature some social distancing and other health considerations in accordance with public health guidelines. The University will also consider allowing visitors on campus, as long as they comply with Penn's public health guidelines and enroll in PennOpen Pass for the duration of their stay. 

Penn is currently vaccinating all members of the Penn community at its on-campus vaccine clinic in the Gimbel Gymnasium at the Pottruck Health and Fitness Center. Faculty, staff, and postdoctoral students were first eligible on April 14, and students began receiving vaccines on April 19, when all people over the age of 16 in Philadelphia became eligible.

Gutmann, Pritchett, and Carnaroli also wrote that all Penn community members will need to continue to use PennOpen Pass, the web-based daily symptom checker and exposure reporting system, and follow the Student Campus Compact, which will be updated early in the fall.

"As we look ahead to the fall, we see the opportunity for a return to campus activities and interactions that are much more in keeping with what we have always known at Penn," Gutmann, Pritchett, and Carnaroli wrote. "We await that with great anticipation."