The University of New England will require that all students and staff returning to the university’s campuses in the fall be vaccinated for COVID-19 before the start of the semester.

The university, which has campuses in Biddeford and Portland, is joining the growing ranks of colleges and universities, including Bowdoin College in Brunswick, that are requiring vaccination for in-person instruction. UNE will allow for religious and medical exemptions, but those granted exemptions will be required to wear masks while on campus. Vaccination will, however, be required for specific clinical and academic programs and activities.

The decision was made “after careful consideration and consultation with university’s medical and public health experts,” UNE said in a news release.

“We are learning more every day about the effectiveness of the COVID-19 vaccines in protecting us from serious illness, hospitalization, and death from the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus, as well as the vaccines’ ability to prevent transmission of the virus to others,” UNE President James Herbert said. “As vaccines become increasingly available, we can all envision how this incredible scientific advancement will allow us to return to the normal UNE activities on our campuses we all miss so much.”

The fall semester will be “as close to normal as possible, with the goal of full occupancy in classrooms, residence halls and labs,” the news release said. UNE is hosting vaccine clinics on its Biddeford campus Wednesday through Friday to help students get immunized.

University of Maine System spokesman Dan Demeritt said campus officials are presently not mandating vaccinations for the fall, but are encouraging as many students and staff as possible to get vaccinated. Those that report completed vaccinations to the university will be permitted to “forgo quarantine and COVID-19 testing requirements.”

Demeritt said in a statement that although “vaccinations are not yet required” for the fall, the university’s leaders and its Science Advisory Board will be “assessing developments with COVID-19 vaccines” in the coming months.

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