4.21.21: Fall 2021 Plans and COVID Vaccines

A message sent to members of the Lehigh community and families.

Dear Members of the Lehigh Community and Lehigh Families,

As we approach the end of this semester and the summer, we want to update you on our plans for the coming months and the fall.

Our goal is to provide the richest and most engaging educational experience possible for all Lehigh students. As we have previously described, we are planning for undergraduate courses to be held in person in the fall, except for a small number of cases in which remote instruction will accommodate students who cannot be on campus because of visa issues or medical accommodations. Residence halls and Greek houses will be at normal capacity. We will also maintain separate housing for students who contract COVID and need to be isolated. We plan to have a robust set of club activities, sports competitions and arts performances with spectators and audiences.

The University has decided that a COVID vaccine will be required this fall for all Lehigh undergraduate and graduate students participating in on-campus programs and activities. This requirement will operate similarly to our existing requirements for other immunizations and will begin to be implemented for students living on campus this summer. All students accessing campus will be subject to this requirement, but it will not apply to students participating in programs that are fully online or which never meet on campus. Any vaccine currently authorized for use by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration will satisfy this requirement.

As with our other required immunizations, students may request an exemption for medical or religious reasons. Information about requirements for such exemptions will be provided by the Lehigh Health and Wellness Center (added 4.22: request an exemption here).

Across the world and on our campus, COVID-19 vaccination is important for allowing a return to normal life. At this time, all people in the U.S. aged 16 and above are eligible to be vaccinated. Safe and effective vaccines are currently widely available in the U.S. Not only do vaccinations prevent serious illness and death, but increasing evidence indicates that vaccination significantly reduces the likelihood that a person can be an asymptomatic carrier of COVID. Data from countries in which vaccination rates are the highest show that rates of death and hospitalization drop with vaccination. Achieving widespread vaccination is therefore an important step in allowing a more rapid return to normal activity on campus, including hosting larger in-person events and expanding options for dining and other activities.

Some policies will be changing as more people are vaccinated. Currently, students, faculty and staff who have been fully vaccinated do not need to quarantine or be tested if they have been identified as a close contact of a person with COVID-19, as long as they remain asymptomatic. Additionally, based on current guidance, we are eliminating mandatory surveillance testing for students who are fully vaccinated. Individuals with symptoms, even those fully vaccinated, must still complete diagnostic testing. We may also modify requirements for face coverings for vaccinated individuals.

Students should complete their vaccination schedule or request an exemption prior to arrival on campus in the fall. If students arrive in the fall before being fully vaccinated, the Health and Wellness Center will connect students to resources to get vaccinated.

We understand that by this fall, some of our international students will already have been vaccinated with one of the many non-US-FDA-approved vaccines currently being used globally. We will still require vaccination with a US-authorized vaccine. We expect that many international students will want to be vaccinated upon arrival, even if they have already received another vaccine, provided this meets established health and safety guidelines. Otherwise, students who received a non-US-FDA-approved vaccine may also request a medical exemption. More specific information for international students will follow from the Office of International Students and Scholars.

Summer Housing and Residential Summer Programs Also Will Require Vaccination

All undergraduate students, including non-Lehigh students, who request to live in Lehigh housing beyond June 1 also will be required to be vaccinated. Graduate students living in campus housing must be vaccinated as of July 1. Optional Lehigh-sponsored summer programs held away from campus may also require vaccination in order to participate.

In addition to the vaccination requirement for students, we strongly encourage all members of the Lehigh community, including faculty and staff, to get vaccinated. We have developed a webpage providing guidance on opportunities to be vaccinated. Our entire community will benefit from widespread vaccination. Please consider a vaccine if you haven’t yet done so.

The safety and well-being of the Lehigh community are our highest priority as we strive to provide the best possible educational opportunities for our students. We look forward to a return to a more typical campus experience. Thank you for your support as we work to make that possible.

For more Lehigh vaccination information, including an FAQ, visit https://coronavirus.lehigh.edu/vaccination-resources.


Nathan Urban

Provost & Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs

Patricia Johnson

Vice President for Finance & Administration

Ricardo Hall

Vice President for Student Affairs

David Rubenstein

Executive Director, Health and Wellness Center