After the unprecedented 2020-21 academic year, students are looking forward to getting back on campus and leaving remote learning behind. While the worst of the pandemic is hopefully in the rear view mirror, the next school year will definitely not be a return to normal as we knew it just yet. The biggest issues will still be masking and vaccinations. While Universities have traditionally encouraged some vaccinations, it really was not a requirement until recent years when local college meningitis outbreaks led to some Universities requiring meningitis vaccines for incoming students. With the return to in person instruction this fall and the proliferation of covid-19 vaccinations, hundreds of Universities are now requiring covid vaccinations for students, faculty and staff while others are not. Students this year face a variety of issues regarding vaccinations as they prepare to head back to campus.
The biggest issue with Covid vaccinations is that they have not been approved by the FDA yet due to the extremely limited time that they have been tested. Prior to the Covid vaccine, the fastest vaccine approval by the FDA was 4 years. The current vaccines available in the US are being made available by what is called an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA), which basically overrides the traditional approval process due to the emergency situation of the Covid 19 pandemic. So if the vaccine is not approved by the FDA, can it be mandated by Colleges and Universities? That is a question that is currently playing out in the courts. Some campuses like Rutgers have had student protests against the vaccine mandates, and some employees such as at a hospital in Houston have sued their employers to fight EUA vaccine mandates. Ultimately it seems as if the FDA will approve the vaccine, and the courts will allow it to be mandated so these issues might be moot.
Smorgasbord of shots?
International students face a particularly difficult choice if they have been vaccinated in their home country by a vaccine that is not authorized by the FDA EUA; these students face a difficult choice of mixing different Covid vaccines without any idea of if it might provide additional protection, or how it might impact their health. It seems unethical for a University to require a student to get 2 different sets of injections without regard to side effects or efficacy as a precondition to getting an education, so hopefully this one will resolve itself and allow admission for international students without having to be vaccinated twice with different vaccines.
Be Your Own Advocate
Ultimately as a college student it boils down to making the decision that is best for you and your family. Covid 19 has been devastating, but it has primarily afflicted the elderly and those with underlying comorbidities such as obesity, diabetes, etc. If you are a young, healthy college student your personal risk profile is very low. The vaccines have their own set of risks for college students as well; there are reports of serious adverse reactions among college students and even deaths. If you are vaccinated, then you should be protected and don’t have anything to fear from the non vaccinated. If someone chooses not to vaccinate themselves, then that is a risk they are taking for themselves. If you are successfully vaccinated, then you are doing your share to help end the pandemic and should be commended. If you are leery of vaccinations then perhaps you should consider a school in a state that doesn’t require covid vaccinations. In any case it remains to be seen whether in the future a student will have control over medical interventions on their own healthy bodies, and vaccine mandates will be used as a coercive tool to force medical interventions on healthy young people against a disease for which their risk of death or even hospitalization is very low.