It is becoming more and more likely that students returning to college campus this fall will need to get the Covid-19 vaccine.
In the past few days, California State University and the University of California announced that all students, staff, and faculties who want to be on campus must be vaccinated against Covid – a move that will affect more than 1 million people.
Across the country, more and more other colleges and universities have announced that vaccinations will be mandatory for the fall of 2021, including Yale University, Georgetown University, Stanford University, Wesleyan University, Grinnell College, Bowdoin College, George Washington University and American University, Emory University, Clark Atlanta University, Morehouse College, Spelman College, Atlantic College in Maine, Seattle University, Vassar College, Manhattanville College, Fairleigh Dickinson University and Assumption University in Worcester, Massachusetts.
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They join a number of other schools that have made similar announcements, including Duke University; Brown University; Northeastern University; the University of Notre Dame; Syracuse University; Ithaca College; Cornell University; Rutgers University; DePaul University and Columbia College in Chicago; Nova Southeastern University; Roger Williams University in Bristol, Rhode Island; Fort Lewis College in Durango, Colorado; and St. Edward’s University in Austin, Texas.
More institutions are likely to follow, according to Lynn Pasquerella, president of the Association of American Colleges and Universities.
Across the country, campuses struggled to stay open over the past year as fraternities, sororities, and off-campus parties suddenly spiked coronavirus cases among students. Meanwhile, students overwhelmingly declared distance learning to be a mediocre substitute for teaching.
With Covid vaccines becoming more eligible and accessible, schools need to consider how a vaccine mandate can help keep higher education back on track, Pasquerella said.
For those enrolled in school, there are already many vaccination requirements in place to help prevent the spread of diseases such as polio, diphtheria, tetanus, and whooping cough.
All 50 states have at least some immunization mandates for children who attend public schools and even children who attend private schools and daycare. In each case there are medical exceptions, and in some cases there are also religious or philosophical exceptions.
“Adding Covid-19 vaccination to our student vaccination requirements will help provide our students with a safer, more robust college experience,” said Jonathan Holloway, president of Rutgers, in a statement.
In most cases, students can request a vaccination waiver for medical or religious reasons, and students participating in completely removed programs do not need to be vaccinated.
Still, the hesitation of the vaccine remains a powerful force, especially among parents.
According to a poll by ParentsTogether, a national advocacy group, in March, only 58% of parents or caregivers said they would vaccinate their children against Covid, although 70% of parents said they would vaccinate themselves.
According to ParentsTogether, low-income households and minority groups were even less likely to vaccinate their children.
Other studies have shown that blacks and Latinos are more skeptical about vaccines than the entire US population due to historical abuse in medicine. Racial differences in vaccine distribution have also been observed in the US
“Colleges need to be one step ahead and think about how this will play out,” said Bethany Robertson, co-founder and co-director of ParentsTogether.
“We need to start the conversation with parents now to build trust and understanding of how vaccinating children against Covid-19 will protect their health, the health of their families and the health of our communities,” said Robertson.
However, in addition to students, parents, and community members, schools must also weigh the interests of faculty, staff, lawmakers, and the boards of trustees, Pasquerella said.
“It’s complicated,” she said. “No matter what decision you make, one group will ultimately be dissatisfied.”
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