Husson University's sign. The Husson University Eagles fell to UMass Dartmouth on Saturday. Credit: Caitlin Rogers / BDN

Husson University has announced that it will require students returning for the fall semester to get the COVID-19 vaccine, joining a growing list of private colleges across Maine.

The mandate by the college comes amid widespread availability of COVID-19 shots, university president Robert A. Clark said Friday, along with recommendations by federal health officials.

“These vaccinations are the best way to ensure that everyone on campus avoids the serious health complications associated with the coronavirus,” Clark said.

While more than half of eligible Mainers have received at least one shot of the vaccine, several residents have still not opted to get inoculated. A vaccine requirement at Maine’s colleges could compel those who wouldn’t get the shot otherwise to do so, and speed up the state’s quest to achieve herd immunity.

Bates College, Bowdoin College, St. Joseph’s College, Thomas College and the University of New England will require students returning to campus next semester to get the COVID-19 vaccine, though several of those universities have medical and religious exemptions.

The College of the Atlantic in Bar Harbor has said it will require the vaccine once the FDA gives full approval to a COVID-19 vaccine, while a spokesperson for Unity College said it would make a decision by the end of May.

Maine’s public colleges have been slower to adopt a vaccine requirement, though that could soon change pending a decision by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

The University of Maine System would “seriously consider” a COVID-19 vaccine requirement for students and faculty who regularly come to campus if one of the COVID-19 vaccines received general approval by the FDA, system chancellor Dannel Malloy said Monday.

The UMaine System has advocated for its students to get vaccinated in recent months, running a public pro-vaccination campaign and giving students the chance to get the shot on campus. Yet, as a public university, Malloy said it was important that the vaccine meet the general FDA standard before students are compelled to get inoculated.

“It will have met traditional standards of vaccines, some of which we already require,” Malloy said on Monday. In line with state policy for students, the UMaine System requires students to show evidence they have received one dose of the tetanus/diphtheria vaccine and two doses of the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine.

The FDA has authorized the Pfizer/BioNTech, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines for emergency use. Vaccine distributors initially sought emergency use approval rather than general approval because emergency use authorization takes less time.

Pfizer/BioNTech has initiated its application for full approval from the FDA for those 16 and over. If approved, it would become the first COVID-19 vaccine with that designation in the United States.

Husson students who regularly go to Husson’s Bangor campus will be required to be vaccinated before classes start on Aug. 30. They will be required to post their vaccination records in the university’s portal.

The Maine Community College System will require students living in residence halls to get vaccinated, spokesperson Noel Gallagher said Monday. She expects about 950 students on five campuses across the system to be affected by the policy in the fall.

“We are not requiring COVID-19 vaccinations for our students, although we are strongly encouraging everyone to get vaccinated as soon as possible,” Gallagher said.