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Students may have to be fully vaccinated to return to universities next year

The UK government has refused to dismiss the idea of making double Covid vaccinations compulsory for students returning to colleges and university campuses in Autumn.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson is reported to have been “raging” about the low vaccination rates among young people, and is eager to encourage more vaccinations.

According to The Times, Mr Johnson suggested making the coronavirus vaccine mandatory for students in both higher and further education during virtual meetings held at Chequers last week.

This coincides with requests from the University and College Union (UCU), who are calling for strict preventative measures to protect university staff.

Vicky Ford, the children’s minister, stated that ministers had to “consider everything”, and refused to reject the idea of prohibiting unvaccinated students from campuses in an interview.

On BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, she said: “I can’t comment on things which haven’t been announced, but one does need to look at every practicality to make sure we can get students back safely.”

When further pressed on the government’s plans, Ms Ford added: “We’ve always considered everything we can do to make sure [students] are safe in education.

The Times has however been told that the Department of Education remains hesitant about the legality and practicality of these proposed plans.

Ms Ford told Times Radio: “I think we’ve always tried throughout this to keep education open to all students, all young people, but there’s been times when we have had to restrict as we did during some of the lockdown so we had to say that the vast majority of pupils didn’t go back to school and we only kept the schools open for critical workers children and vulnerable children.

“But we need to make sure that we don’t go back into that situation, and a key part of our reopening the rest of society is we’ve done so much so far the past few months, a key part of that has been having the double vaccination so do go out and get your vaccination.

“And I’ll certainly be encouraging my student sons to get a second dose before they get back to university.”

Getting immunised is going to reduce the risk of spreading this infection among young people, and enable them to get back to normal

– Professor Adam Finn

Tory chairman of the education select committee, Robert Halfon, stated: “Where does this stop? Do we fire apprentices who have not had the vaccine?”

“Do we remove older students from FE colleges? Do we close down adult education courses where adults have not had the vaccine? I hope not.”

Sources suggest that no decisions have been made yet, but concerns are rising given the fact that fewer than 60% of 18 to 25s have had the first vaccination.

The government is also discussing the options of banning sporting fans from attending events from October unless they are fully vaccinated as well.

Professor Adam Finn, deputy head of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation, said: “If people begin to feel they are being kind of forced against their will to do something, then in a sense, that’s quite a damaging thing, because it gives people the impression vaccination is something being imposed on them from outside.”

He continued to warn that young people are still falling seriously ill from the virus: “There are younger people really getting seriously ill, so that’s one good reason to think about having the vaccine.

“Getting immunised is going to reduce the risk of spreading this infection among young people, and enable them to get back to normal.”

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