Yale currently has the second-most vaccinated undergraduate student body population in the Ivy League, with 99.5 percent of undergraduates having received a full COVID-19 vaccination, according to the most-recent publicly available data.

Yale’s vaccination rate has crept steadily upwards this fall as administrators have pursued efforts to make the vaccine readily available to Yale affiliates and encouraged them to take the vaccine. The University’s COVID-19 policy is that faculty, staff, students and postdoctoral and postgraduate trainees must be vaccinated to use Yale facilities unless they have a specific vaccination exemption, which may currently be requested for medical or religious reasons. 

“We are very pleased with the high rates of vaccination that we achieved through new policies, programs to make it easy to be vaccinated, frequent communication about vaccines and exemptions, and the partnership and commitment of so many members of our campus community,” Stephanie Spangler, the University’s COVID-19 Coordinator, wrote in an email to the News.

Yale’s undergraduate vaccination rate tops that of seven other Ivy League schools, second only to Columbia University, which currently boasts a rate of 99.7 percent.

Vaccination rates for Yale’s Ivy League peers are broadly very high. While the schools break down their publicly-available COVID-19 data differently, the dashboards all reflect consistently high rates: Cornell University and Princeton University are both at 99 percent, Brown University is at 98.8 percent, Harvard University is at 95 percent and Dartmouth College is at 92 percent. The University of Pennsylvania does not appear to publish vaccination data. 

Yale’s positivity rates have correspondingly been very low. In the past seven days, the University has tested 5,624 individual undergraduate students and zero tests have come back positive, as of Tuesday night. Isolation housing capacity is currently at 100 percent. 

“Zero cases is an amazing accomplishment,” professor Howard Forman told the News. “The undergraduates need to be congratulated and we need to appreciate how hard it is to be that safe, and they have done so.”

Princeton also recorded a zero percent positivity rate among undergraduates in the week ending on Oct. 1. But just last week, Harvard Business School temporarily suspended most in-person classes following a number of COVID-19 infections among the students.

Still, positivity rates have been low across the Ivy League, though none as low as Yale’s or Princeton’s. In the last seven days of publicly-available data, Brown logged a positivity rate of 0.05 percent. Cornell’s was 0.07 percent, Harvard’s was 0.09 percent, Dartmouth’s was 0.09 percent, Penn’s was 0.15 percent and Columbia’s was 0.33 percent. 

While Yale, Princeton and Penn provide positivity rate data for undergraduates specifically, the other Ivies do not distinguish by cohort. Columbia is the only Ivy that is not currently requiring regular testing for its vaccinated affiliates.

Spangler told the News that vaccination has been one component of a multilayered approach to slowly bringing campus closer to a new normal, along with mandatory weekly testing and mask requirements. 

“Last spring the University, with the advice of its public health experts, determined that achieving high rates of vaccination would be an important — likely the most important — protection against COVID-19 transmission,” Spangler wrote.

In an interview with the News, Forman — a professor of radiology and biomedical imaging, public health, management and economics — said that the University’s messaging has played a major role in achieving such high vaccination rates. 

The “number one thing” to communicate in a campaign like this is that getting the vaccine can give the public “freedom,” he said. Equally as important is Yale’s approach to winning over vaccine-hesitant students: “Those students were convinced by evidence over time and not made to feel ostracized,” Forman said.

Yale faculty, staff, postdoctoral and postgraduate trainees and students may seek vaccination exemptions on medical and religious grounds by submitting a request form to the University. Until Sept. 25, faculty, staff and postdoctoral and postgraduate trainees were also able to submit exemption requests on the grounds of strongly-held personal beliefs.

Unvaccinated individuals are subject to a variety of additional requirements, including twice-weekly testing, daily health checks and close-contact quarantine. 

Forman said that it should “hearten” members of the Yale community that life on campus is significantly less restricted than last year, due in large part to vaccines.

Forman emphasized that the Yale community’s high vaccination rate “doesn’t mean we get to let our guard down.”

“Part of our responsibility to New Haven as a rich and elite institution — a very big responsibility — is not to harm our surrounding community,” Forman said. “We shouldn’t be exposing them to unnecessary risk.”

Yale’s current COVID-19 alert level is yellow, which denotes low to moderate risk.

OLIVIA TUCKER
Olivia Tucker covers student policy and affairs. She previously served as an associate editor of the Yale Daily News Magazine and covered gender equity and diversity as a staff reporter. Originally from the San Francisco Bay Area, she is a sophomore in Davenport College majoring in English.