DePaul falls short as local universities announce vaccine roll-out plans


Eric Henry

The statue of John J. Egan, located outside of the Lincoln Park Student Center, wearing a mask.

As universities around Chicago announce their plans to help vaccinate their students and faculty members against Covid-19, DePaul revealed it has no such plan at this time. 

“DePaul encourages all faculty, staff and students to get vaccinated when it is their turn. By getting vaccinated, you will put our Vincentian mission into practice by living in service of the common good,” spokesperson Kristin Mathews told The DePaulia.  The statement was later expanded on in a Newsline post. 

Other universities around the city have announced comprehensive plans for vaccine distribution. Columbia College Chicago announced free vaccinations would be offered to eligible members of the community. The University of Illinois at Chicago announced they will be charging insurance plans for delivery. And the University of Chicago announced in an internal email that its goal is to “facilitate vaccine access for all eligible members of the University community” beginning Jan. 31, free of charge. 

The university’s boilerplate response comes a week after President A. Gabriel Esteban said during a faculty council Q&A session that students will not be “forced” to be vaccinated. Esteban was asked by a faculty member what the university’s plan for vaccinating faculty would be, to which he responded it is “not such a big issue.”

A number of university spokespeople declined to comment further on DePaul’s plans to help students and staff receive vaccines. Five calls and an email were ignored by the university’s press office, and Covid Response Team members Shannon Suffoletto and Cheryl Hover declined to comment. 

Craig Klugman, head of DePaul’s Covid-19 Response Team and a health sciences professor, reached out to The DePaulia after Esteban made those comments. 

Klugman told The DePaulia that under U.S. and Illinois law, “no one can require a vaccine issued under an FDA emergency use authorization (EUA).”

Chicago is currently in Phase 1A of the vaccine rollout, which allows healthcare personnel and long-term care facility residents to receive the vaccination, according to

On Jan.15, Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced that Phase 1B will begin on Jan. 25, when frontline workers and residents over the age of 65 can receive the vaccine. According to NBC5 Chicago, Phase 1B will roughly apply to 3.2 million residents. 

Klugman said the university has to follow city guidelines on the vaccination process.

We have populations that will be eligible in Phases 1C, and 2,” Klugman said. “At the moment, most students are in Phase 2 (Chicagoans over 16 years of age). The city has not given us any official information about where faculty fall in this allocation plan.” 

Klugman added whether any university can eventually require a Covid-19 vaccine will depend on if it receives full FDA approval and if the legislature or the Illinois Department of Public Health, through a law or public rule-making permits, respectively, require a specific vaccination.

No vaccine in that category [FDA emergency use authorization] has [been] required at an institution before,” Klugman said. “There’s also the fact that demand is far higher than available supplies. We do not know for certain when different groups will be able to get the vaccine. No one can require something that is not available.” 

Regarding the exemption of a required vaccination, Klugman explained that under Illinois law, a person can apply for a K-12 vaccine as an exemption based on religious belief or philosophical conviction. With other states, only medical exemptions can be considered. DePaul does consider religious objections to vaccinations on a case-by-case basis. 

“Being a diverse institution with people from many many faiths, DePaul will have to follow state and federal law on this issue,” Klugman said. “This concern will most likely be a factor in DePaul’s approach to Covid-19 vaccination.” 

The university’s statement noted the quick rollout of the Covid-19 vaccine and what students, faculty and staff should continue to do in the meantime. 

“We know how important these vaccines are to everyone at DePaul and will share information as our plans develop,” the statement read.