New Jersey coronavirus update: Rutgers students protest COVID-19 vaccine requirement

Coronavirus Update New Jersey
NEW BRUNSWICK, New Jersey (WABC) -- A group of students from Rutgers held a protest Friday morning at the New Brunswick campus to speak out against the university's requirement for students to be vaccinated against COVID-19 for the fall semester.

It was mostly had the appearance of a political rally, made up of mostly adults long past their college days carrying political and anti-vaccine posters.

Actual Rutgers students were harder to find to speak about the school policy, but the ones we talked to were vocal, determined to avoid the vaccine.

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Dr. Rajenda Kapila, an infectious disease specialist and professor at Rutgers University who practiced medicine for 50 years in New Jersey, has died of COVID-19 in India.

"I believe that the COVID vaccination should be a personal choice between the student and their doctor," political science major Sara Raci said. "But not the university and the government itself."

An estimated 90% of those in attendance were not students and won't be headed to classes in the fall. But Maryam Wahba will be entering her senior year.

"It shouldn't be forced, so that's why we're here," she said. "It should be an option. It should be a choice. So we should choose for ourselves. But right now, they're putting our education on pause, making us, forcing us to take the vaccine to go back to school to take in-person classes."

Rutgers released a statement saying it is focused on safety and that the policy is legal.

"We are committed to creating a safe campus environment in fall 2021 and to support the health and safety for all members of the Rutgers community," Senior Director of News and Media Relations Dory Devlin said. "The university has updated existing immunization requirements for students to include the COVID-19 vaccine. The university's position on vaccines is consistent with the legal authority supporting this policy."

At least one student told Eyewitness News they plan to transfer if the policy remains in place.

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Rutgers University, the only New Jersey site for the vaccine trial, will enroll as many as 200 kids ages 6 months to 11 years old in the study.

Rutgers announced the policy in late March, with exemptions available for medical or religious reasons. Those enrolled in fully remote online degree programs or participating in online-only continuing education programs will not be required to be vaccinated.

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