Most Florida universities won't require COVID-19 vaccine

As universities across the country prepare to bring more students back to campus this fall, some are taking extra precautions by mandating vaccines. The list of schools requiring a shot is a short one, but it does include one in Florida.

The University of South Florida is one of the state’s public institutions that will not require students and staff to take the COVID-19 vaccine, at least for now.

"Currently the University of South Florida does not require the COVID-19 vaccine for students, faculty and staff.  At this time, no decision has been made whether the vaccine will be required after it is more widely available," officials said in a statement.

Eckerd College and the University of Tampa told FOX 13 they are following the same steps.

"At this point, UT is encouraging, but not requiring,  students and employees to be vaccinated for COVID-19."

However, at least one Florida university, so far, is mandating the shot. 

PREVIOUS: Nova Southeastern University will require students and staff to get COVID-19 vaccines

Nova Southeastern University, which has campuses all over the state, including in Clearwater, said last week students and staff must be fully vaccinated by August 1. 

The aim is to get students and instructors back to the classroom and to a more productive educational setting as soon as possible. There are some concerns that the school is overstepping.

Others are asking whether the university has the legal authority to mandate the shot. Legal experts recently told FOX 35 that private schools like NSU have more leeway than public universities. 

In the event of an issue with medical privacy laws, attorneys said the courts would likely defer to the university in the time of a pandemic. The school says it expects legal challenges. Nova Southeastern is one of at least seven U.S. colleges so far requiring the vaccine.

Other Florida universities are not requiring the vaccine, but school officials are still strongly encouraging everyone to get the shot to protect themselves and others. On Tuesday, Saint Leo University launched a two-day vaccine clinic for students, their families and staff at its Pasco County campus. 

Meanwhile in Gainesville, University of Florida also hosted a mass vaccination event this week at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. Similar events were held in Tallahassee at Florida State University. 

The University of Central Florida, along with Rollins College and Stetson University, are also hosting vaccine events this week. 

"I came here to get vaccinated," Saint Leo University student athlete Timothy D’Antuono told FOX 13 News on Tuesday. "I’m glad to get it offered to us, especially as student-athletes. It allows us to, you know, get back into competition as normal as possible moving forward."

D’Antuono said it's been difficult to compete without fans in attendance at athletic events, but hopefully in the fall, as more people get vaccinated, his team will be able to see fans again.

St. Leo University President Jeff Senese said the vaccine means that in the fall, the university has a chance to go back to normal. 

"People will be able to attend basketball games, they'll be able to attend theater, they'll be able to hang out with their friends," he said.

Vaccines at St. Leo’s Pasco campus are available by appointment only.