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Several Ohio universities will not require students to get a COVID-19 vaccine

While schools across the nation plan on requiring a COVID vaccine for return to campus, several Ohio universities are leaving that decision up to students.

WESTERVILLE, Ohio — John Ratino is about to wrap up his freshman year at Otterbein University in Westerville. On Wednesday, in between classes, he made a quick stop at the university’s field house on campus that had been transformed into a mass vaccination clinic, open only to students. The Westerville Fire Department was on hand to help host the clinic.

Within a matter of minutes, Ratino got a COVID-19 vaccine, and that card to prove it. He said it’s peace of mind before he heads home for summer break. He was among the first students to get vaccinated at Otterbein.

The clinic at Otterbein is part of a new state initiative this week to distribute the Johnson & Johnson one-shot vaccines on nearly every college campus across the state. Governor Mike DeWine said he hopes the convenience factor will lead to more young people getting vaccinated.

RELATED: College campuses statewide begin distributing doses of COVID-19 vaccine to students

Otterbein received 2,400 doses for any student who wants one.

Ratino chose to get vaccinated, and he said he believes it should remain a choice.

“I feel like it’s hard to force someone, especially when it’s so new,” Ratino said.

At Otterbein, it will not be required for students to get vaccinated for COVID-19 in order to return to campus in the fall.

“We’ve had discussions but at this point in time we’re holding true that we’re not going to require it for students. We certainly respect the personal decision of our students,” said Dawn Stuart, vice president of student affairs at Otterbein University.

Across the country it’s a different story. Schools like Rutgers University, Brown University, and Northeastern University have announced plans to require students to be vaccinated in order to come back to campus at the beginning of next school year.

“I understand where the universities would be coming from but I also think that it should be a personal choice and that people should be able to consult with their doctor and decide what’s best for them,” said Jake Harper, a graduate student at Otterbein.

A big part of the discussion underway at colleges and universities everywhere is the fact that the COVID-19 vaccines have been distributed under the FDA’s emergency use authorization.

Here’s a look at where other schools stand in Ohio:

Currently, Ohio University does not plan on requiring the COVID-19 vaccine for students. “With the vaccine being under an emergency use authorization, most universities and workplaces are not requiring vaccine. We are working hard to encourage everyone – students, faculty, and staff to get vaccine as soon as possible," university officials said. 

At Kent State University, the vaccine is also “strongly” encouraged and not a requirement. However, the University said, “[h]aving our population vaccinated against COVID-19 is part of the university’s strategy for safely returning to more traditional campus operations for the 2021 Fall Semester.”

Ohio State University will not require students to be vaccinated either but getting the vaccine is encouraged.

Bowling Green State University has not decided. The school provided this statement to 10TV: 

“While BGSU strongly encourages faculty, staff and students to get vaccinated, the University has not made any decision to make it mandatory for the fall semester. As we look toward the future, BGSU has continually strived to be as flexible as possible throughout the pandemic. The University understands that every one of our community members has a different viewpoint on these topics, and we have worked to be supportive of each individual. If BGSU would decide to mandate the vaccine because of continued high case numbers and recommendations from state public health officials, we would also have an exemption process for students.”