About half of the students and staff expected to be on University of Maine System campuses this fall have verified their vaccination status ahead of a deadline Friday to be exempt from arrival testing and quarantine practices.

As of Tuesday, roughly 14,600 students and staff have verified their vaccination status. That is about 42 percent of the 35,000 students and employees who make up the university population. However, of the 25,000 employees and students expected to be in-person on campuses this fall, about 52 percent, or 13,307 have registered their status. The deadline to verify vaccination status is 5 p.m. Friday.

Students who are not vaccinated or have only received one shot may come to campus but will have to participate in asymptomatic testing and other safety practices. Students who are not in compliance with the vaccination requirement by Oct. 15 and have not received an exemption will be asked to study remotely.

The current number of verifications includes almost 10,700 students, which represents about 50 percent of the student population the university wants to see verified, Chancellor Dannel Malloy said. He’s optimistic the system will get to 100 percent compliance, and that 400 to 500 new vaccination verifications are coming in per day. Classes in the UMaine System start Aug. 30.

“It’s not unusual to think we will have a rush in the coming days as each of our universities communicates with their students and reminds them to go online and get this done,” Malloy said. “We’re very happy with where we stand at the moment. We’re getting to where we want to be and where we need to be.”

Hundreds of colleges and universities around the country have announced vaccine requirements for the fall. The UMaine System previously had said it would require the vaccines only after they received full approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The system accelerated the timeline for the requirement for on-campus students this month, citing the rise of the highly contagious delta variant.

The system is still negotiating with labor unions about requiring vaccination for on-campus faculty and staff, who have been asked to voluntarily verify their vaccination status in order to avoid testing and quarantine protocols on campus. Jim McClymer, president of the Associated Faculties of the University of Maine, a union representing full-time faculty across the system, said in an email that negotiations are scheduled to begin Friday. He didn’t respond to additional questions about faculty opinions on a vaccine requirement and whether the union has specific provisions it wants to negotiate.

The system verifies vaccination status by using a secure online portal that uploads images of vaccination cards issued by health care providers.

ENCOURAGING COMPLIANCE

To boost compliance, the system is engaging in education, incentives and encouragement campaigns, including holding campus-based clinics. Since mid-July, the system has been awarding a weekly $1,000 “Shot Clock” scholarship to a student who verifies their vaccination status. On Tuesday, the system announced the giveaway will be expanded in the final week to award a $1,000 scholarship to one verified student on each campus.

In addition, student ambassadors are urging their peers to get vaccinated through social media and interviews. At a news conference Tuesday, student ambassadors spoke about why they chose to get vaccinated and why it’s important for other students to do so as well.

Irene Neal, a nursing student at the University of Maine at Fort Kent who also serves on the system board of trustees, said she chose to get vaccinated to protect other people she comes in contact with, especially through her work as a nursing student and certified nursing assistant.

“A traditional college campus is a very social and communal place,” Neal said. “The health and well-being of everyone is very connected. So if there’s widespread vaccination we can prevent further pain and suffering due to COVID and its variants.”

Tim Johnson, a student at the University of Southern Maine studying information technology, got vaccinated after a friend’s father died from COVID-19. “I feel like if he had it, for example, he would still be here,” Johnson said. “That’s the thing. I want to protect everyone around me. It’s not necessarily about me, it’s about protecting the people around me.”


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