The University of Maine System will not require students or employees at its campuses to receive COVID-19 vaccinations.

System spokesman Dan Demeritt said Friday that the decision was made by Chancellor Dannel Malloy and Joan Ferrini-Mundy, president of the UMaine flagship campus in Orono.

Demeritt said college leaders have largely agreed since the two vaccines by Pfizer and Moderna were approved under an emergency use authorization that a mandate would not be appropriate. Students and staff will be encouraged and supported if they do choose to get vaccinated, he said.

The University of Maine System includes seven campus across the state that collectively enroll more than 30,000 students and employ more than 5,000 faculty and staff members.

It’s likely that most students would not be eligible for vaccines until Phase 2 of the state’s plan, which isn’t expected to begin until late spring, contingent on supply.

All UMaine campuses reopened to students late last summer but with restrictions in place. Many classes are conducted virtually and mask-wearing is required in public settings. The spring semester resumed this week after a longer-than-normal holiday break.

So far, there haven’t been any large-scale outbreaks at any school. As of Thursday, there were 63 known active cases of UMaine System students or employees in isolation for COVID-19, 34 of them at the Orono on Friday. For the 2020-21 academic year, there have been a total of 186 cases detected through the system’s asymptomatic screening process, out of more than 47,000 tests conducted.

Demeritt said it’s possible college leaders will revisit the decision on whether vaccines should be required, but any decision would be guided by science and analysis of the vaccines’ efficacy.

In addition to the Orono campus, the UMaine System includes campuses in Augusta, Farmington, Fort Kent, Machias, Presque Isle and the University of Southern Maine in Portland and Gorham.

Comments are no longer available on this story