SOUTH BEND — The University of Notre Dame says it will require all students to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 for this year’s fall semester.

University officials notified the campus community of the requirement in a letter Wednesday, saying it will accommodate documented medical or religious exemptions to vaccinations.

“Requiring students to be vaccinated for COVID-19 is a new and important addition to our health policies, one that we believe will enhance public health at Notre Dame and in our community, while also contributing to our ability to return to a more vibrant campus environment,” university President Rev. John Jenkins said.

The announcement came in advance of Notre Dame opening a clinic Thursday to administer the Pfizer-BioNTech two-dose vaccine.

School officials encouraged students to be vaccinated at the clinic in the coming weeks. They said Indiana health officials have assured the university an ample supply is available to fully inoculate the student body, and any faculty and staff who have not yet been vaccinated.

The university will work with international students who may have received other types of vaccines that have not been approved in Indiana.

Other universities including Brown, Cornell and Rutgers have announced plans for similar vaccine requirements.

Spokesmen for Indiana University and Purdue University said neither institution is requiring the vaccine yet.

As of Thursday, a total of 3,195,357 doses have been administered in Indiana, including 1,873,481 first doses and 1,321,876 individuals who are fully vaccinated, according to the Indiana State Department of Health.

Also Thursday, the Indiana Senate approved a bill that designates religious activities as essential services and prohibits restrictions on them during a declared emergency.

The measure, which heads to the governor, would prohibit state and local orders from restricting anyone’s ability to attend religious services during disaster emergencies. The legislation also bars state and local orders from being more restrictive on churches than other businesses considered to be essential.

Houses of worship would be allowed to hold services without regard to capacity size, social distancing or mask mandates, for example. However, restrictions could apply to their schools or daycares.

“I hope it’s another 500 years before we ever have another disaster ... like what our state and nation have experienced this last year,” state Sen. Eric Koch, R-Bedford, said. “But should that arise, this should protect that very enshrined right in our Constitution.”

Gov. Eric Holcomb prohibited in-person worship services early in the pandemic. Republican legislative leaders praised his leadership during the pandemic, but he has faced conservative discontent over the more than 60 coronavirus-related executive orders he’s issued.

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