Columbia University will require COVID-19 vaccinations

A woman walks on the Columbia University campus in New York, March 9, 2020. (AP File Photo)

Columbia University in New York City is now part of a growing list of colleges and universities that will require students to receive the COVID-19 vaccine before returning to campus in the fall.

The university announced the decision by its president and COVID Task Force in a public message to the institution's community.

"We regard this decision as essential to ensuring the health of Columbia students and the broader University and surrounding community, and also to containing the spread of the virus in New York City, one of the most severely affected locations in the country throughout this past 13 months," the message, signed by Gerry Rosberg, Columbia's senior executive vice president, and Donna Lynne, the university's COVID director and a senior vice president.

Columbia will allow exemptions for either religious or medical reasons, as it does for influenza and measles vaccines, the message stated.

"Despite tremendous hardship, Columbia has maintained its academic, research and clinical vitality throughout the current academic year," the university said in the message. "The vaccine will push us that much closer to the normal campus life we are so eager to restore."

Yale University will require COVID-19 vaccinations

In partnership with New York Presbyterian, Columbia is operating several vaccination sites, where more than 11,000 faculty, staff, and students have been vaccinated since mid-December.

"We now operate three locations that provide vaccinations to Columbia affiliates, two of which can offer vaccine to their family members, as well as to other patients," the university said. "Additionally, we have launched a pop-up weekend vaccine site for the surrounding community at the Forum in Manhattanville."

COVID-19 infections and hospitalizations in New York are dropping but still remain high. New York recorded 43,000 new cases in the week that ended Saturday. Hospitals in the state reported 3,754 COVID patients as of Saturday, down 14% from two weeks prior. 

Columbia's primary campus is in Morningside Heights and its health sciences campus is in Washington Heights. It also has specialized research campuses in the Hudson Valley.

Get breaking news alerts in the FOX 5 NY News app. Download for FREE!