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Jabs are best bet for Covid-safe campuses, US government says

Department of Education backs vaccinations in disease prevention guidance for universities

The United States Department of Education has said that universities should prioritise offering and promoting Covid-19 vaccinations to protect staff and students on their return to campus.

The department made the recommendation in the third edition of its Ed Covid-19 Handbook—the first instalment to consider higher education specifically—which was published on 4 June.

Vaccination is “the leading prevention strategy” that universities can use to return to normal operations, the department said. It also outlined best practices on face coverings, distancing, ventilation, testing, tracing and communications.

The advice came as some institutions finalised their preparations for the return of staff and students to campus for the autumn semester.

Duke University said on 7 June that 79 per cent of its staff were fully vaccinated, compared with around 42 per cent of people in the US as a whole and 39 per cent in North Carolina, where it is based.

The university, which requires masks and social distancing inside its buildings, said it was “strongly” encouraging staff and students to get a Covid-19 jab but had not yet made vaccination a condition of employment. It said that it may make weekly testing a requirement for unvaccinated people.

Harvard University has made vaccination a requirement for students, who will be asked to quarantine on arrival. The university said it would provide vaccination to any enrolled, full-time student who had not been vaccinated.