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BYU-Hawaii Students Required to Get Vaccinated Against COVID-19


Brigham Young University in Lāʻie is one of two Hawaiʻi private schools of any education level requiring students to get the COVID-19 vaccine before stepping foot on campus.

The Conversation spoke with President John Kauwe to understand the mandatory vaccine policy for students — BYU’s other campuses are not requiring the vaccine.

ʻIolani School, also on Oʻahu, is requiring the vaccine for older students.

"The vaccine is extremely effective, it's very safe. Just like those at ʻIolani did, we explored and carefully considered all the available data about the various COVID-19 vaccines, their safety, their efficacy," Kauwe said.

Kauwe said the university consulted with medical experts and, as a molecular biologist and population geneticist, he was also able to understand primary research literature.

"All of those considerations made it clear to us that this — the vaccine and vaccination effort — is a safe and effective way to mitigate the risk of COVID-19 or ourselves and our community. And ensure, or I guess ensure is a strong word, but at least facilitate the safest and most uninterrupted educational experience that we can provide for our students," he said.

The university enrolls about 3,000 students from over 70 countries, Kauwe said.

"We bring those students here to this small community that is tight-knit, that has very limited medical facilities nearby and we take our role in this community very, very seriously," Kauwe told Hawaiʻi Public Radio.

Students must submit vaccination records by Aug. 18, two weeks before BYU starts in September.

As for staff, he said nearly 80% of them are fully vaccinated voluntarily. Faculty who will be interacting with students are well over 90% vaccinated voluntarily, he said Monday.

ʻIolani School was the first private K-12 campus to announce it will require COVID-19 vaccinations for vaccine-eligible students in grades seven through 12, and all employees.

This interview aired on The Conversation on Aug. 2, 2021.

Catherine Cruz is the host of The Conversation. Originally from Guam, she spent more than 30 years at KITV, covering beats from government to education. Contact her at ccruz@hawaiipublicradio.org.
Sophia McCullough is a digital news producer. Contact her at news@hawaiipublicradio.org.
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