State’s community colleges to require vaccination by January

  • Holyoke Community College GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

Staff Writer
Monday, September 27, 2021

HOLYOKE — The 15 Massachusetts community colleges, including those in Holyoke, Greenfield and Springfield, will require most students and all faculty and staff to receive a COVID-19 vaccination by January.

The new requirement, announced by the presidents of the colleges in a joint statement Monday, comes in response to climbing case counts amid the highly contagious delta variant, and it applies to students who plan to take in-person classes or come to campus for any reason during the spring 2022 semester.

“During the last 18 months, the Massachusetts Community Colleges have prioritized the health and safety of our communities while also recognizing that many of our students have been disproportionately impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic,” the presidents wrote in their statement, adding that the colleges “are committed to ensuring vaccination status is not a barrier to students” and “will continue offering a range of virtual learning opportunities and services.”

All 15 colleges offer free vaccine clinics on their campuses and will continue to do so. The statewide community college system has more than 135,000 students.

“While there is no ironclad defense against coronavirus, extensive public health research has shown that vaccination greatly reduces the risk of hospitalization and death,” Holyoke Community College president Christina Royal said in a message to the campus community.

The college presidents said that the increased access and availability of vaccines, the Food and Drug Administration’s full and pending approval of vaccines, and federal guidance that the COVID-19 vaccine has been proven to be extremely safe and highly effective were all factors in the decision to implement a mandate.

“COVID-19 vaccination is now shown to provide excellent protection against severe disease, hospitalization and death,” Greenfield Community College interim President Richard Hopper wrote in a statement to the GCC community. ” Since taking on the role of interim president I have prioritized safety and mental health across the college; this requirement will support that effort.”

Springfield Technical Community College President John Cook said in a statement that the date of January 2022 “gives time to plan and take necessary steps for full vaccination.”

“We hope to continue increasing on-campus, face-to-face courses over the academic year,” Cook said. “I am deeply grateful to everyone for the successful launch of the fall semester.”

In Hampden County, where HCC and STCC are located, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that 54.9% of eligible people are vaccinated, and for the period Sept. 12-18, 20 people died of COVID-19. In Franklin County, where Greenfield Community College is located, 58.5% of eligible people are vaccinated; 120 people tested positive Sept. 12-18, and four were hospitalized.

GCC is reporting two active cases of COVID-19 as of Monday and Quinsigamond Community College in Worcester reported eight active cases in students Friday.

HCC continues to offer free COVID-19 vaccinations on its Homestead Avenue campus every Tuesday from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. The college also offers COVID-19 testing six days a week on campus through the Holyoke Board of Health. Both vaccination clinics and testing are available in Parking Lot N outside the Bartley Center for Athletics and Recreation.

GCC is also hosting a free mobile vaccine clinic Tuesday in front of its main building from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. where all three vaccines — Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson — will be available.

Brian Steele can be reached at bsteele@gazettenet.com.