Maine Maritime Academy in Castine. Credit: Courtesy of Maine Maritime Academy

Maine Maritime Academy is now requiring its students to be vaccinated against COVID-19 this fall.

With the Castine school’s announcement, nearly all Maine college students will need to be vaccinated before fall classes begin.

Maine Maritime previously recommended the campus community get vaccinated, but with the summer surge of the delta variant among the unvaccinated, the college changed course Thursday morning.

“We were very much hoping to have a return to campus that resembled a traditional ‘back to school’ experience. Unfortunately, the emergence of the Delta variant has complicated our plans and required continual adjustments in how we think, learn, and work,” Maine Maritime President William J. Brennan said.

Thursday’s announcement only applies to Maine Maritime students, who must be fully vaccinated by Oct. 1. Maine Maritime welcomes students back to campus later this month.

The school will host a vaccination clinic on Aug. 27 for those students who have yet to be vaccinated. The Johnson & Johnson and the Pfizer vaccines will be available, and a follow-up clinic will be scheduled later in the fall for those needing a second dose of the Pfizer vaccine. The clinic will be open to the staff and faculty and the general public.

Brennan said that Maine Maritime is exploring whether it may mandate COVID-19 vaccines for faculty and staff.

“We are currently evaluating contractual obligations, but it is my hope that our employees recognize their responsibility to our community — and to our students in particular — and make their decision to get vaccinated without an employer or government mandate,” Brennan said, noting that more than 80 percent of the school’s employees have already verified their vaccination status.

That news came just hours before the Maine Community College System announced its decision to mandate COVID-19 vaccines for students. Earlier the system only required students living in dorms and athletes to get vaccinated.

On Wednesday, Thomas College in Waterville said it is mandating COVID-19 vaccines for students, staff and faculty in the fall. Most higher education institutions in Maine have mandated vaccines, including Bates College in Lewiston, Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Colby College in Waterville, the College of the Atlantic in Bar Harbor, Husson University in Bangor, the Maine College of Art in Portland, St. Joseph’s College in Standish, Unity College, the University of Maine System and the University of New England in Biddeford.

Very few Maine higher education institutions have opted to not mandate vaccines. Beal College in Bangor isn’t requiring COVID-19 vaccines, but the private school said it offers most classes online and has no student housing.

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this report misstated the Maine Community College System’s earlier position on requiring COVID-19 vaccines.