The University of Maine System is working to bring hundreds of students into compliance with its coronavirus vaccine requirement ahead of a Friday deadline that if not met could result in those students losing access to their courses without a refund.

“At some point they will have effectively withdrawn from their courses and yes, we will ask those folks to remove themselves from campus and terminate their access to various tools if that’s the situation we’re in,” Chancellor Dannel Malloy said. “But I’m trying to stress that we are going to go the extra mile with respect to trying to have one-on-one contact with these folks.”

As of Thursday, 471 students had yet to verify their vaccination status with the system or ask for an exemption. Another 378 have verified that they have received just one shot and the system will be working with them to ensure they receive their final dose.

The UMaine System has an anticipated in-person population this fall of about 23,400, though that number also includes faculty and staff members, and an in-person vaccination rate of 91 percent. Among residential students, 97.5 percent have verified their vaccination status.

A total of 1,070 students have received exemptions for either religious or medical reasons or because they are studying only remotely. Among employees, who must get vaccinated or submit to weekly testing, 138 have received exemptions.

Students who don’t comply with the requirement to get vaccinated or get approved for an exemption risk being withdrawn from their courses by Oct. 31. Malloy said he has asked campus presidents to reach out to students personally to try and find out why they may not be in compliance and help them get there.

“What we’re going to do is work to try to have a one-on-one discussion with as many of these folks as we can to make sure our information is accurate and they’re intentionally seeking to withdraw,” he said.

As many as half of the students who haven’t verified their vaccination status already may have chosen to withdraw for various reasons but their paperwork has not caught up with the vaccination data. In an average fall, about 590 students typically withdraw by the end of the semester. So far this semester, there have been only 194 withdrawals.

“I suspect what’s going on is a substantial portion of (those who haven’t verified their status have withdrawn),” Malloy said. “We have people who leave in the first or second week and they may not have done their paperwork. We’re digging through that, to tell you the truth.”

Overall, Malloy said, the vaccine mandate has been an effective tool for keeping COVID cases low and in-person learning happening on the system’s seven campuses. As of Thursday there were just 32 known active cases in the system.

The system also plans to continue its vaccination mandate for all new students starting in the spring semester.

“People have lots of notice now,” Malloy said. “When we imposed the mandate in August we realized we needed to work with people to help them overcome these difficulties, but that’s not a difficulty anyone is facing now with respect to starting in January.”

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