The policy is scheduled to go into effect on August 15, 2023.
This decision comes after a series of back-and-forth changes in Rutgers' COVID policies over the past two years. According to the Brownstone Institute, on March 25, 2021, Rutgers became the first university in the United States to require students to receive the COVID vaccine before the fall 2021 semester.
However, this policy was implemented only after the university retracted a previous statement earlier that year, which stated that the vaccine was not mandatory, citing a commitment to human liberties and a history of protecting them.
Despite these changes, Rutgers maintains that it is committed to the health and safety of its community members. However, on July 30, 2021, Rochelle Walensky issued a press release stating that the COVID vaccines do not prevent individuals from contracting the virus.
In January 2022, Rutgers announced a booster mandate, requiring students to receive a booster shot by January 31. This left currently enrolled students with little choice but to comply with the mandate in order to remain enrolled.
Out of the 2,679 four-year colleges and universities in the United States, Rutgers is one of fewer than 100 institutions that have not abandoned COVID vaccine mandates.
Kentucky Senator Rand Paul expressed his disagreement with the university's policy in a post on X (formerly Twitter), stating, "Requiring 3 COVID vax for college freshman is not just bad science but malpractice. Risk of myocarditis is 28x higher in young men w/COVID vaccine than the risk of myocarditis from COVID. Germany released stats - no healthy young people died from Covid."
Throughout 2020 and 2021, Rutgers implemented some of the strictest pandemic and lockdown protocols, even when other colleges and universities had found ways to navigate the challenges posed by the pandemic.
According to Children's Health Defense, students quickly complied with these protocols out of fear of being labeled as anti-science or supporters of the MAGA (Make America Great Again) movement, and being accused of endangering lives, particularly those of older individuals.
One former student described her experience as being caught in a whirlwind of fear, social pressure, and partisanship. As a result, she chose to self-censor rather than risk damaging relationships or losing her standing in the community.
In addition to students, faculty and staff were also required to receive the COVID vaccine. Federal Executive Order 14042, signed on September 9, 2021, mandated that all employees of federally contracted institutions, including universities, be vaccinated against the virus.
Children's Health Defense reported that some employees, all of whom had received vaccinations, received threatening notices to comply with the booster mandate. These notices reportedly stated that failure to comply with the Executive Order and the university's requirements could result in disciplinary action, including termination of employment.