HONOLULU (KHON2) — University of Hawaii (UH) students who plan to return to on-campus learning will need to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 as part of their health clearance requirements beginning this fall semester.

This applies to all UH campuses: students physically attending courses, living in on-campus housing or participating in activities, including athletic events, must be vaccinated.

UH joins a growing list of universities nationwide to add the vaccine requirement as part of its plans to resume normal operations for the Fall 2021 semester.

According to the Associated Press, more than 350 colleges and universities in the U.S. have mandated vaccinations for students and sometimes for employees as well.

“It is clear that a vaccinated campus is a safer campus for everyone, and a fully vaccinated student community enables the best opportunity for a healthy return to high-quality face-to-face teaching, learning and research,” UH President David Lassner said in a statement on Monday, May 17. “This decision does not come lightly, and is based on guidance from our own Health and Well-Being Working Group as well as the American College Health Association recommendation that all on-campus college students be required to be vaccinated.”

The vaccine mandate will take effect only after at least one of the three vaccines has been approved and fully licensed by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, which is anticipated this summer.

“I’m feeling a little relieved,” said Ana Velazquez, UH senior. “I think it’s going to be nice to have an extra layer of precaution while begin on campus because no one wants to get the virus. No one wants to be  exposed like that.”

Students who are not vaccinated will still be able to enroll in online courses. Those who still want to return to campus may be granted an exemption for medical and religious reasons. More information will be made available in the coming months.

UH intends to start discussions with three unions that represent its employees about possibly requiring the COVID-19 vaccine for employees as well. They will also need to figure out how to enforce the requirement across all campuses.

“Having fully vaccinated campuses will help tremendously to create a much safer learning environment and minimize any transmission of COVID-19 from person to person,” Hawaii Department of Health Director Libby Char said in a statement.

For more information about UH’s vaccine requirement, click here.