Bates College’s testing center at Underhill arena in Lewiston. Steve Collins/Sun Journal

LEWISTON — Bates College says it is ready to vaccinate its students, faculty and staff — if the state gives it the vaccines.

The college said Friday that the Maine Center for Disease Control confirmed that all of its students, including ones from out-of-state or from other countries, will be eligible for immunizations for COVID-19 in Maine, as long as they are going to school in the state.

“We are prepared to host a clinic for members of the Bates community,” the college said on its website.

State guidelines say that anybody who is 16 or older will be eligible for the vaccine starting April 19, creating the possibility that some students could be fully immunized before the semester ends in May.

A growing number of colleges across the country are gearing up to offer vaccines to at least some students, including the University of Texas and the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill.

Others are dictating that students find vaccines somewhere in the months to come. Rutgers University in New Brunswick, New Jersey, for instance, announced it will insist most students be fully vaccinated if they want to return to campus in the fall. It plans to offer vaccines on campus.

Bates has not expressed any plan to mandate vaccines. But it has required every student who is not studying remotely to be tested at least twice a week.

Bates has been testing students for COVID-19 since the start of its academic year, a costly and comprehensive effort that has administered nearly 30,000 tests this semester alone. Since August, 53 students have tested positive.

The testing center at the college has also been used for vaccinations, but not for Bates staff and students.

The college said it partnered with United Ambulance for three vaccine clinics on campus for first responders in the area, an initiative that officials said went well.

It also “allowed us to test our capacity to do vaccine clinics on campus,” the college said on its website.

The possibility that vaccines may be administered at some point hasn’t caused any lessening of the strict rules the college imposed to try to keep students wearing masks, keeping apart from each other and otherwise engaging in safe public health practices.

Joshua McIntosh, Bates’ vice president for campus life, told students this week to use more care.

“We are concerned with what we are observing on campus: more and more students not wearing face coverings or practicing physical distancing,” he said in a letter to students.

He said that last weekend, administrators also “received a number of reports from neighbors and others regarding off-campus social gatherings where individuals were not adhering to our public health guidelines.”

He warned students who live on campus to steer clear of off-campus gatherings.

McIntosh also told students who don’t live in college housing they must use masks, maintain distancing and limit gatherings to no more than 10 people.

“We know how challenging this year has been for the social life of our students, but we do not want to find ourselves having to send large numbers of students home because of public health violations, as some peer institutions have already had to do,” he said.

“Please do all you can to keep our campus healthy and to help keep us in a position where we can offer in-person learning,” McIntosh said.


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