Penn has lifted its COVID-19 vaccination requirement for students, faculty, and staff.
The change, announced by Wellness at Penn on April 13, ends a policy that has been in place since the beginning of the 2021-22 school year. The decision marks the removal of one of the University’s final remaining COVID-19-related policies for students. Prior to the 2022-23 academic year, the University lifted mandatory COVID-19 testing, ended PennOpen Pass, and gave professors the option to mandate masking in their classes.
While members of the Penn community are no longer required to be vaccinated for COVID-19, the University “strongly encourages” all members to remain up to date on COVID-19 immunizations per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s recommendations.
“Vaccines remain a cornerstone of our public health approach to campus health and wellbeing and are one of the greatest tools we have,” the University’s announcement read. “The goal of vaccines has always been to prevent death, severe disease, and hospitalizations. On our campus, they also exist to support the academic mission of the institution by keeping our community healthy during their academic journeys.”
Chief Wellness Officer Benoit Dubé wrote to The Daily Pennsylvanian that the lifting of the mandate is consistent with decisions made by other institutions of higher education in Philadelphia, as well as other Ivy League universities. It "keeps us aligned with the federal guidance as we move into this next phase of the pandemic," Dubé wrote.
"Our public health mission has not changed," Dubé added. "As the virus has evolved, so has our guidance. After receiving advisement from local and federal agencies, we continue to highly recommend that all members of the Penn community remain up-to-date with their COVID-19 immunizations."
Penn will return to its pre-pandemic immunization requirements for the 2023-24 school year, Dubé wrote, which are consistent with government agencies, and Penn will continue to hold a flu vaccine clinic in the fall.
"Additionally, the revised guidance encourages more individual agency when assessing risk," Dubé wrote.
The decision follows President Joe Biden's signing of a bill on Monday ending the United States’ COVID-19 national emergency, despite previously stating that he planned to do so on May 11. Earlier this week, the Philadelphia Department of Public Health lifted the COVID-19 vaccination mandate for all institutions of higher education. The vaccine mandate remains in effect for health care workers at Penn.
In response, Drexel University announced on April 12 that it would no longer require COVID-19 vaccination for students or employees. Temple University, Saint Joseph’s University, La Salle University, and Villanova University still currently have mandates in place.
Penn is the third Ivy League university to lift its COVID-19 vaccine mandate for faculty, students, and staff, following Columbia University and Dartmouth College. On Feb. 27, Columbia University Provost Mary Boyce and other university officials announced the lifting of Columbia’s COVID-19 vaccine requirement on May 11. Dartmouth announced a similar policy on April 11.