As of April 23, 30 colleges and universities had announced that they would be requiring students to be vaccinated against the coronavirus before arriving on campus for the Fall 2021 semester. Among these schools is Rutgers, a university in New Jersey that shares the University of Delaware’s public-private standing.
The University of Delaware has yet to make a decision on whether or not to require students to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 before returning to campus.
While COVID-19 vaccinations could make an on-campus experience much safer for students and protect the surrounding community, many policy-makers at the state level and the university level are hesitant to enforce such a policy. For some, this hesitation stems from uncertainty about the vaccine having been developed so recently, while others are more reserved due to medical concerns. In short, however, a new virus requires a new vaccine, and in most cases, the potential side effects are not nearly as damaging as contracting the coronavirus would be. We’ve taken chances on requiring vaccines before. Why is now any different?
The measles vaccine, one that the university currently requires, became available in the United States in 1963. Today, most are more than happy to get their measles vaccine and rarely complain about immunization requirements — or at the very least, begrudgingly comply.
Adding to the similarities between the measles and COVID-19 vaccination efforts, many of the side effects of the measles vaccine are similar to those of the coronavirus vaccine. And in both cases, the viruses themselves are highly contagious and much more deadly than the vaccines are.
So, the question remains, if the university requires its students to be vaccinated against the measles, why shouldn’t it require its students to be vaccinated against COVID-19?
In short, the university should make the coronavirus vaccine mandatory for students — just as it has for measles, meningococcal meningitis and mumps. At the very least, it should require that all students taking in-person classes be vaccinated and continue to enforce frequent testing and mask-wearing for all students living on campus, along with random testing for off-campus students.
As mentioned, while some might turn down the COVID-19 vaccine due to how quickly it was developed, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) assures that it is completely safe. It went through rigorous clinical trials before being approved by the Food and Drug Administration. Even now, after 211 million doses have been administered, the CDC has continued to observe the vaccine’s effectiveness against COVID-19 and the unlikelihood of severe and long-term side effects. Just because the vaccine was developed quickly, that does not mean that it is dangerous.
Because 95% of classes are planned to be held in person, a large part of the university community would have to be vaccinated; therefore, mass vaccination efforts to accommodate this sector of the university population are necessary. If the university does not enforce a vaccination requirement, it would put most of its students, staff and faculty at risk, in addition to the Newark community at-large.
There are, of course, some exceptions to the students who would be required to receive a vaccination. On this front, we encourage the university to adopt the same measures as with the other required vaccines. According to university policies, “A student will be exempt from the immunization requirements if he/she objects on the grounds that vaccination or tests conflict with religious beliefs or provides a statement exempting compliance signed by a licensed physician.”
Even within the context of these exceptions, the requirement for vaccination would still make a huge difference in COVID-19 cases on campus and in Newark. Overall, our campus would be much safer.
We urge the university to act now and follow the example of the 30 other colleges and universities that made the coronavirus vaccine a requirement. In delaying this announcement, the likelihood that its message of enforcement will reach every student, staff member and faculty member is only lessening. Delay also gives students less time to get their vaccines — further decreasing the feasibility of a fully vaccinated university population.
Right now, if the university makes it clear that it requires vaccinations for its students who will be attending in-person classes in the fall, it has an opportunity to save lives and further its mission of education. We suggest that it take that opportunity.
The Review’s weekly editorials are written to reflect the majority opinion of The Review’s staff. This week’s editorial was written by Editor-in-Chief, Kelsey Wagner. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.