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Issue 1

September 27th, 2019

Colleges require COVID-19 vaccines

THURS. | 04-22-21 | OPINION

Co-Editors-in-Chief                             & 

     With increasing availability of and eligibility for the COVID-19 vaccines, colleges have begun to examine whether or not to mandate the COVID-19 vaccine beginning with fall 2021 enrollment. In the past, vaccines like the smallpox vaccine, polio, measles and many more have been made mandatory for those attending public school K-12. 

     The process of making these mandatory, however, took place 100s of years after the vaccines’ initial creation, at least that was the case for the smallpox vaccine. According to the World Health Organization, “The smallpox vaccine, introduced by Edward Jenner in 1796, was the first successful vaccine to be developed.” It was not until 1905 in the Supreme Court case Jacobson vs. Massachusetts, that the Supreme Court ruled that the prerequisite immunization for public school enrollment was protected under the Constitution to “protect the public health and safety of its citizens.”

     Similarly, we feel that colleges and universities should be able to protect the interests of the university and its students by

Orange and Blue Big Bright and Bold Medi

Graphic by Tierney Reardon

requiring COVID-19 vaccinations. College campuses have become prime breeding grounds for the virus as proved by the many outbreaks witnessed across the nation. Both East Carolina University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill sent their students home to learn virtually following COVID-19 spikes on campus in late August. Normalcy is dependent on people choosing to be vaccinated and is a key step in protecting students and their education. 

     Along with this, mandatory vaccinations will protect the more at-risk demographic of universities: campus staff. This will encourage a more normalized relationship between students and teachers by placing emphasis on in-person contact rather than through Zoom. Along with this, the required COVID-19 vaccine would protect other higher risk groups with pre-existing medical conditions, especially students. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), both Moderna and Pfizer are stated to be “highly effective” in stopping COVID-19 infections. High risk students, who previously may have been wary of returning in-person this upcoming school year with low vaccination rates, would now hopefully have a greater sense of safety on campus. However, for those students who are still cautious, the college should still provide a virtual option to accommodate their needs.

     As stated in a recent CNBC article, a “survey of 1,000 college students by College Pulse, an overwhelming 71% of students believe colleges have the right to require students to get vaccinated before returning to campus.” Many college students, especially rising freshmen, are especially attached to the idea of a normal college experience after such abnormal junior and senior years.

     However, we recognize that certain students should be exempt from the universities’ mandate. Some students hold religious and ethical considerations which would prevent them from receiving the vaccine. North Carolina similarly provides a religious exemption for public school immunizations. According to the CDC, less than 0.1% of North Carolina public school children in kindergarten chose to be exempt from one or more required vaccines under the premise of religious considerations. Projecting that this statistic would be similarly translated to college campuses, the desired percentage of 80-90% for herd immunity could still be easily attained, even with those who attest personal belief as support for exemption. 

     Along with ethical considerations, universities should recognize health limitations as a hindrance to recipients. Yale University Health lists a few groups such as those prone to anaphylaxis that should be medically exempt from the COVID-19 vaccines. However, the university should recognize and account for other instances of medical exemption with proper medical documentation.

     Although this past semester universities have largely chosen to simply encourage their students to become COVID-19 vaccinated, Rutgers University in New Jersey was one of the first to announce mandatory COVID-19 vaccination for fall 2021. Rutgers allows for medical and religious exemptions and does not require online students to follow the requirement. 

     More recently, on Friday, Apr. 9, Duke University announced that they would be requiring students to get vaccinated prior to the beginning of school and Duke Health will be providing access to the Moderna vaccine. At the moment University of North Carolina System schools strongly recommend that students get vaccinated, but have yet to make vaccination a requirement. If they were to do so, the decision would affect all 16 universities. We hope that many colleges will follow in their trail by soon announcing their COVID-19 mandate with necessary exemptions as a final stride towards normalcy for fall 2021.

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