Why is UW–Madison making vaccination against COVID-19 optional rather than required?

It is the policy of UW System that campuses should encourage, but not require, vaccination for COVID-19. Those living in residence halls are required to test weekly unless they are fully vaccinated. A number of factors went into this decision. We continue to see encouraging progress in the fight against COVID-19 driven by strong participation in vaccination on campus and in the broader community. Cases in Dane County have also dropped to their lowest level since May 2020 and vaccination rates are high. We strongly encourage everyone to get vaccinated and will continue to offer no-cost vaccination for employees, students and the public. We will continue to offer pop-up vaccination clinics across campus to make it convenient to get vaccinated.

Once a person is vaccinated, they have the highest level of protection. Vaccinated people are unlikely to become infected with COVID-19, even if they are a close contact of someone who tests positive. Among those who do contract COVID-19 after vaccination, the vast majority have mild illness and are unlikely to pass the virus to others. With a surrounding community that is highly vaccinated and a local campus community that is highly vaccinated, we should expect few infections.

We recognize that some people have medical conditions that prevent them from receiving full protection from vaccination. Employees (including student employees) with a specific medical concern should contact their Divisional Disability Representative. All other students with specific concerns related to health conditions should contact their Access Consultant in the McBurney Disability Resource Center. If you were vaccinated at UW Health or elsewhere off campus, please let us know. Having the most accurate information possible about our community’s vaccination rate is important as we reunite on campus. The university will not disclose an individual’s vaccination status to others.