Are US colleges right to require all students vaccinate prior to opening?
- As of April 10, 2021, have been 31.2 million coronavirus cases in the United States, with 575,610 reported deaths.
- There are currently three COVID vaccines: Pfizer - BioNTech, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson. Both Pfizer and Moderna are mRNA vaccines and require two doses, while Johnson & Johnson is a viral vector vaccine in one dose.
- Some US universities are requiring their students to vaccinate before returning to campus. Brown, Northeastern, Cornell, Fort Lewis, Nova Southeastern, Roger Williams, Rutgers, and St. Edwards University are part of the growing list of campuses with COVID vaccine requirements.
- According to the CDC, children are required to be vaccinated against chickenpox, diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, the flu, measles, mumps, rubella, and polio before starting school.
As with other COVID precautions, this isn't simply a matter of students protecting themselves as individuals. Although it is still possible to spread COVID even if you've been vaccinated, 'a growing body of evidence suggests' that people who are fully vaccinated are 'potentially less likely to transmit SARS-CoV-2 to others,' according to a recent CDC study. Situations such as student gatherings and communal living and less responsible behavior in terms of social distancing and other precautions make this an area of particular concern with the younger student population. The New York Times reports that 'more than 120,000 cases have been linked to American colleges and universities since Jan. 1.' College students being vaccinated could help prevent such outbreaks, which would help protect the rest of us as well. It should also be noted that, although there are still some quarantine procedures in place for those traveling from high-risk areas, there are exemptions for students coming from certain places such as the UK. A school policy like this would help shore up the gaps caused by such loopholes.
Cornell University says that their plans for reopening 'are based on achieving a high level of immunity among students and employees,' and of course, vaccinations are an essential element of that immunity. In addition to the tangible benefit for college students and staff, the optics would also help reinforce the idea among youth, and the rest of the population, that vaccinations will help us all get back to something like a normal life.
Colleges should not require students to receive the COVID-19 vaccination before reopening, primarily due to its surrounding controversy. It is a relatively new medication that was quickly developed, compared to previous vaccines, making many skeptical and unwilling to be a ‘guinea pig’ for it and its possible side effects. The vaccine is also “the first to work” as an mRNA drug, causing further hesitation, along with unknown but potential infertility issues, which is concerning for young adults.
There is also much controversy surrounding vaccines in general. Whether in school or the workplace, adults should be given a choice on whether they will receive the vaccine, yet this could vary depending on fields such as healthcare. Just as with other vaccines, schools and institutions will often allow a small percentage of ‘anti-vaxxers’ while still striving for ‘herd immunity.’
Those who choose not to get the vaccine do so for valid personal reasons, varying from health concerns to religious views. While many colleges have already claimed they will allow exceptions in these cases, it is still unclear how this will occur. If gaining an exemption status proves difficult, it could be a discrimination issue, as denying education may lead to an entire class of a generation being set back in life academically. Polls surrounding ‘vaccine hesitancy’ also indicate that “low-income and minority households were even less likely to vaccinate their children” in general.
Requiring vaccinations may not necessarily allow the world to return to ‘normal’ immediately, considering that different strains of the virus may develop and that some businesses have pledged to continue implementing pandemic-related precautions indefinitely, regardless of local mandates.