Nova Southeastern rescinds vaccine requirement after ‘vaccine passport’ ban

The school says it won’t return to normal operations until 80 percent of the people on its campuses voluntarily disclose vaccinations.
Nova Southeastern University now recommends, but does not require, vaccines.
Nova Southeastern University now recommends, but does not require, vaccines. [ Courtesy of Nova Southeastern University ]
Published May 5, 2021|Updated May 5, 2021

Nova Southeastern University announced Wednesday that Florida’s new law prohibiting vaccine passports will force it to cancel its plans for requiring students, faculty and staff to provide proof of a COVID-19 shot before returning to campus in August.

Under the new law signed Tuesday by Gov. Ron DeSantis, businesses, schools and governments may not require proof of vaccinations. Violators could be fined up to $5,000 per incident.

Nova Southeastern president George L. Hanbury announced the change in plans in a statement to the university community.

The statement applauded DeSantis for “this mammoth effort” to vaccinate Floridians and encouraged its community to get vaccinated.

“Like the state of Florida, we are striving for a high voluntary vaccination rate for the NSU community to enable NSU’s campuses to return to normalcy this fall, which is everyone’s wish,” Hanbury said. “According to recent reports, the higher the vaccination rate, the lower the mitigation measures that are required.”

The university, which has a branch campus in Clearwater, said it still hopes to reach a vaccination level of 100 percent, but will set a minimum threshold of 80 percent of voluntarily vaccinated students in “order to return to normalcy this fall on each of NSU’s campuses.”

Disclosure of vaccination status will be voluntary, though it will require documentation, and the vaccination rate will be measured separately for each campus.

At the 80 percent threshold, the university said more social gatherings, university events, dining on-campus, intercollegiate sports and clubs would be able to resume.

“I believe we can do it,” Hanbury said in the message. “We can get to, and even exceed, that 80 percent threshold of voluntarily vaccinated on-campus students by August 1 and return to the in-person learning environment and on-campus lifestyle we all treasure and miss so much.”

Nova Southeastern has two medical schools as well as pharmacy, nursing and other health care programs. School officials cited the existence of those programs when they announced their original plan to require vaccinations.