Other Schools are Requiring the COVID-19 Vaccine. Should SJU?

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I was recently talking to my friend who goes to Rutgers University. She mentioned how her school is going to require every student to get the COVID-19 vaccine. Until this conversation, I didn’t even realize this was something that colleges and universities were requiring. I thought this idea seemed a little crazy, but I wanted to find out more. I wanted to see if Rutgers was one of the only schools with this requirement or if this was something that many schools would require as well. I then wondered if SJU would mandate the vaccine and how other students were feeling about this idea. Am I the only one who thinks that a mandate isn’t necessary?

As college students return to campus next fall, what new requirements will have to be in place to keep the virus from spreading?

Schools Mandating the Vaccine

Colleges have struggled to control COVID outbreaks on campus. Residential campuses are social spaces where viruses can (and did) spread through dorms, off-campus housing, and parties. Many colleges believe that the vaccine is the solution to controlling this problem.

Rutgers was one of the first universities to announce that they will be requiring the vaccine.

“Vaccinations are an important tool for making the fall semester safe,” says Antonio Calcado, who leads Rutgers’ COVID-19 task force. “We felt that just simply encouraging would not have the same effect as a requirement.”

Many other schools feel this same way.

It is increasingly likely that students returning to college campuses in the fall will be required to get the Covid-19 vaccine. More than 100 US colleges and universities have said they will require all their students to get vaccinated against Covid-19 before they return to campus for the fall semester, according to a CNN tally. This list only continues to grow. You can click on the link below to see a list by state of which schools are mandating the vaccine so far. Click here

When it comes to SJU’s neighboring schools or schools relatively close to SJU, a few of them have also already said they’re requiring the vaccine. Some of these schools include: Drexel University, University of Pennsylvania, Lehigh University, Haverford College, and Bryn Mawr College.

As we can see, many schools are requiring the vaccine, but I wanted to take a look into specifically Jesuit schools like SJU. There are currently 27 Jesuit colleges in the US. Out of the 27 Jesuit schools, 9 are requiring the vaccine so far, and 18 are not. 

SJU’s Decision

According to Saint Joseph’s University website, “the University will not require COVID-19 vaccination while the current options are conditionally approved by the FDA. When the vaccines have full approval, the University will reevaluate whether the vaccine will be required for students.”

However, SJU is encouraging people to get the vaccine and on May 4th they offered an on-campus vaccine clinic for their students, faculty, staff and contractors in the Athletic Center adjacent to Hagan Arena. The Pfizer vaccine was administered by Rite Aid on May 4 with a second dose to be delivered on May 25.

Opinions of SJU Students

When it comes to the student body at SJU, many people have mixed feelings about whether or not the vaccine should be mandatory. I conducted a poll with 83 students from all grade levels. I asked, “Should the COVID-19 vaccine be mandatory for going back to SJU in the fall?” The results were pretty evenly split. 51.8% of students think that the vaccine should not be mandatory and 48.1% of students think that the vaccine should be mandatory. You can see the results below:

A Closer Look

After conducting the poll, I decided to ask SJU students if they think that SJU made the right decision in not mandating the COVID-19 vaccine and why. Here are some responses: (“No” meaning SJU made the wrong decision in not mandating the vaccine yet and “yes” meaning SJU made the right decision.)

No. I don’t [think] this is right because it puts the safety of other students [at risk]. [It’s unfair to those] who are doing the right thing by getting the vaccine. The sooner everyone is vaccinated then we can finally get back to normal life.” -Tatum Corwin

No. I think that it is in everyone’s best interests to receive the Covid vaccine and that is the only way we can truly be safe on campus.” -Tara Lanehart

Yes. It’s a very controversial topic that would’ve been made a huge deal over the summer.” -Dillon LaCorte

Yes. I think everyone should get vaccinated, but there are always people that won’t want to and will drag any school that mandates the vaccine through the mud even though the university just wants to stay open and keep students healthy.” -Anonymous SJU student

Yes. I am more than capable of assessing risk on my own.” -Jon McGory

No. It should be required to go back to college in the fall which can lead us to normalcy.” -Maggie Flaherty

Yes. The vaccine just came out, and I think more research is needed to determine what underlying health issues can be impacted by it because ultimately everyone’s bodies can react differently.” -Anonymous SJU student

“Yes. I think Saint Joes made the correct decision to not require the COVID vaccine, because not all citizens are willing to get the vaccine. By not mandating it, the university is allowing students to make their own choice about a vaccine and what they choose to do with their body.” -Anonymous SJU student

Yes. I think it’s crazy to make it mandatory and I think it’s also impossible to make 8,000 students get this vaccine.” -Kate Bailer

No. I feel as though if the vaccine is not mandated, many people will not get it and the community will not achieve immunity enough to return to somewhat normal.” -Rosario LaSpina

From this, we can see the range of responses seem to vary. Some students seem to have strong opinions about why it should be mandatory, while others have strong opinions against it. Many students who said that SJU did not make the right decision agree that it puts the safety of other students at risk, it would make them feel more safe in general, and it would lead us into a more normal semester. Students with the opposing view believe that they can make the decision to get the vaccine on their own, the vaccine is too new, and making it mandatory would cause too much controversy.

My Opinion

Personally, I believe SJU made the right decision in not mandating the COVID-19 vaccine. I think that the vaccine should be highly recommended, but not mandatory. I’m pretty shocked after discovering how many schools will be requiring the vaccine. I thought it was a little crazy when I found out that Rutgers is requiring the vaccine, but now over 100? On one hand, I think it’s great that all these schools want a safe and more normal school year, but I just don’t think it should be required. I think that if you want it then get it, if you don’t then don’t. When reading articles and websites about the vaccine, there are a lot of “mights”, “maybes”, and “researching further.” In my opinion, this is a red flag and I want defined answers before putting something into my body. I think that a vaccine that is so new, should be a choice and not forced. This vaccine is different from others because we only know the effects of it from the last couple months. Not knowing exactly what the long term effects are, is a little scary (even when there is evidence that the long term effects probably won’t be harmful). Speaking from experience, I had COVID-19 a few weeks ago. I felt a little sick and lost my taste and smell. I was very lucky that COVID-19 didn’t have a huge effect on me. With this being said, I feel like there’s no reason for me to get the vaccine. I know how my body reacts to it and there’s a small chance that I’ll get COVID again. I know a lot of other students feel this way as well.

I also think that the results from both my poll and interviews, show that some students are very hesitant about the idea. I think that this shows that the vaccine should not be mandatory when there are many students questioning the long term as well as the short term side effects. 

On the other hand, I do think that the COVID-19 vaccine is great and I can see all the amazing benefits. You never know how your body will react to COVID, so it’s definitely smart to get the vaccine, especially if you’re older. It will also help bring things back to normal and create the “herd immunity,” which is why I think it should be highly recommended. Maybe once the FDA approves the vaccine, people will start to feel differently about it and not be as hesitant.