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Portland Community College decides against COVID-19 vaccine requirement for fall

Portland Community College, the state's largest post-secondary institution, has decided it won't require proof of vaccination against COVID-19 for students, staff or faculty.
Portland Community College, the state's largest post-secondary institution, has decided it won't require proof of vaccination against COVID-19 for students, staff or faculty.

Oregon’s largest institution of higher learning has decided not to require COVID-19 vaccines of its students and faculty.

Portland Community College announced Monday that it is not requiring students, faculty and staff to prove they’ve been vaccinated “as a condition of employment or enrollment this fall term.”

All seven of the state’s public universities are requiring proof of vaccination or a valid exemption to study or work on campus, but the state’s community colleges have been taking the opposite approach.

With more than 60,000 full- and part-time students, PCC is Oregon’s largest post-secondary institution. PCC officials said it was the decision of college president Mark Mitsui, based on a recommendation from the college’s COVID-19 opening leadership team.

The college said that, based on surveys, the vaccination rate of the college community is well above the 70% target that Oregon leaders have set for relaxing pandemic rules. Officials also said that vaccine hesitancy varies based on different racial groups, and they didn’t want vaccine requirements to create a barrier to college for people of color.

“This would not reflect PCC’s institutional values of equity, inclusion and belonging,” PCC officials said in a statement.

The Portland Community College Federation of Faculty and Academic Professionals didn’t take a position on COVID-19 vaccines, according to union spokesperson Michelle DuBarry. She said the union is calling for administrators members to provide “flexible work arrangements including the option to continue to work and teach remotely” for faculty members “who do not feel safe returning to work.”

No Oregon community college has required vaccinations for all students. But Central Oregon Community College has required them for residential students or those in clinical settings.

“Few community colleges across the country are making vaccination a requirement for enrollment,” PCC’s statement said. “This trend is aligned with the open access mission of community colleges, a value that is core to PCC.”

The Oregon Health Authority has recommended that everyone who can get a vaccine do so as soon as possible.

Copyright 2021 Oregon Public Broadcasting