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BALTIMORE — Maryland’s public higher education system will require that students, faculty and staff returning to campuses in the fall be vaccinated against COVID-19.

University System of Maryland Chancellor Jay Perman announced the decision in a statement Friday. The system will allow appropriate exemptions for medical or religious reasons, the statement said.

“If we examine the data — and there is an extraordinary accumulation of data — we see that the risk of vaccines is very low, whereas the risk of COVID is very high. And that risk is increasingly falling on young people,” Perman said.

The announcement came a day after the 10-campus University of California system and the 23-campus California State University system said they intend to require vaccines in the fall, in the largest announcement of its kind in American higher education.

Across the country, colleges have been divided on the issue. Some private universities have recently told students they must get vaccinated, but other schools are leaving the decision to students.

The Maryland system said it would also continue with other mitigation strategies like pre-arrival COVID-19 testing, flagyl dosage for bacterial infection surveillance testing and public health interventions like masking.

The system includes 12 universities and three regional higher education centers serving about 135,000 undergraduate and about 41,000 graduate students, according to its website.

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