Even without a vaccine mandate, the University of Wisconsin-Madison says 90 percent of its campus population has been fully vaccinated against the coronavirus.
As of Wednesday, UW-Madison said 88 percent of students and 92 percent of employees have provided vaccination records to university officials. The rates are higher for faculty in Madison, with 99 percent uploading proof of their vaccination status.
UW-Madison also reported that 94 percent of students living in residence halls have completed their vaccination series.
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In a press release, Chancellor Rebecca Blank said she is proud of students and employees for taking important steps to protect themselves and others.
“Our high level of vaccination means that we have a robust level of protection on campus and fewer members of our community will experience severe infections caused by COVID-19, compared to areas with lower vaccination rates,” said Blank.
She said the campus is still likely to experience COVID-19 cases and breakthrough infections, which generally result in milder symptoms than among those who are unvaccinated.
The release stated that UW-Madison’s vaccination rate is similar to or higher than those reported by other Big Ten universities that have mandated the shots. As of Aug. 26, the University of Illinois had a student vaccination rate of 88 percent. The University of Michigan reported Thursday that 92 percent of students had reported being fully vaccinated.
Also on Thursday, Wisconsin’s largest private college, Marquette University, announced that 92 percent of students have been vaccinated against the coronavirus. Students there are required to get vaccinations, but employees are not. Marquette administrators reported that 84 percent of faculty and staff have completed vaccination series and the remaining employees must be tested for the virus regularly.
UW-Madison University Health Services Director Jake Baggot told WPR that while the high vaccination rates are good news for the campus, other safety measures need to be followed to prevent outbreaks like the one that shuttered the university in September 2020.
“This doesn’t mean that our students or the rest of our community can ignore our existing protocols, like masking and staying home if you feel ill,” said Baggott. “We really are working hard to avoid any issues like what we experienced last fall.”
UW-Madison is offering a third dose of vaccine to students who are immunocompromised, the release said. The campus is awaiting direction from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on booster shots.
“While I’m proud of our student vaccination rate so far, we do not plan to stop at 70 percent,” chancellor Joe Gow said in a press release. “We have a responsibility to ensure that as many of our students as possible are fully vaccinated against COVID-19.”
Because UW-Madison and UW-La Crosse have vaccination rates among students at or beyond 70 percent, those students will be eligible for financial incentives, including $7,000 scholarships.
In July, UW System interim president Tommy Thompson said he will not require vaccinations at state colleges. Instead, he announced a lottery-based competition for students and campuses to drive up demand for vaccines. Thompson said the names of 70 students who have been vaccinated and attend a campus with student vaccination rates above 70 percent will be drawn during the fall semester. Those who are selected will get a $7,000 credit toward tuition costs.
The UW System estimates the vaccination incentive program will cost nearly $500,000.
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