Students Respond to Possible COVID Vaccine Requirement
April 30, 2021
Hunter Britt | Capital Information Service
RICHMOND, Virginia – Colleges in Virginia are starting to announce mandatory COVID-19 vaccination policies in the fall following advice from the state attorney general that higher education institutions may require the vaccine.
Virginia’s public colleges and universities may require the COVID-19 vaccine for faculty and students returning to campus this fall, Attorney General Mark Herring said in late April.
“College and university students in Virginia deserve the chance to attend classes in person and take advantage of all that their schools have to offer, but over the past year we have seen numerous outbreaks of COVID on them. school campuses, so we need to make sure they do this with the health and safety of their peers and communities in mind, ”Herring said.
School leaders questioned the legality of making the COVID-19 vaccine mandatory because the vaccine is currently cleared for emergency use. This means people should be given a choice to take it and be made aware of the consequences if they don’t, Lisa Lee, professor of public health at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, told Capital News Service before Herring released her statement. declaration.
Currently, colleges in Virginia are requesting documentation that a student has been vaccinated against diphtheria, tetanus, polio, measles, and mumps.
At least three private universities based in Virginia will need the vaccine for students and employees returning to campus in the fall. Hampton, Mary Baldwin, and Virginia Wesleyan universities have updated their policies making the vaccine mandatory. Hampton made his decision weeks before the attorney general issued his opinion.
Michael Porter, spokesperson for Richmond-based Virginia Commonwealth University, said in an email that VCU still does not need the COVID-19 vaccine for returning students. The university is “reviewing the attorney general’s directives” as it plans the upcoming semester.
The University of Virginia at Charlottesville recently issued a statement acknowledging Herring’s opinion but has yet to update its policy.
Virginia Tech is still deliberating whether to require the COVID-19 vaccine, university spokesman Mark Owczarski said in an email. Once the decision is made, the university will communicate it to students and staff.
The College of William & Mary in Williamsburg recently asked students and staff to expect a mandatory vaccination update in mid-May. The college encouraged students, faculty, and staff to get vaccinated if possible.
George Mason University at Fairfax is considering requiring the vaccine, the university said in a statement released in mid-April ahead of Herring’s announcement. Mason encouraged the students to get vaccinated and to ask their health care provider if they had any questions.
Bri Bittenbender, a criminal justice specialist at VCU, said schools in Virginia must apply the COVID-19 vaccine if things ever get back to normal.
“I think it might provide a level of security for students returning to classes in person,” she said. “But if schools don’t enforce it, then we’re stuck where we are now.”
Bittenbender is not the only one, as many students in Virginia feel the same way. Isabella Chalfant, a William & Mary student majoring in environmental law and art history, said politically averse to the vaccine is “foolish.”
“The most important thing about the vaccine is being able to protect the people you love,” she said. “When I finally got the email to make my appointment, I cried because it meant I didn’t have to be afraid to live my life anymore. “
Chalfant said she has prioritized the vaccine to protect her mother who is considered to be at high risk.
“I can also protect my family, because my mother has underlying issues,” she said. “It is extremely important for me and for my family to protect her. “
While there are many students across Virginia who support the vaccine requirement, there are others who are uncertain. Kaitlyn Whitehead, a health sciences student at James Madison University in Harrisonburg, said giving colleges leeway to make the vaccine mandatory is “not a positive thing.”
“I believe, like anything else, that there should be a choice,” she said.
Whitehead said that since the flu shot isn’t mandatory in colleges in Virginia, the COVID-19 vaccine shouldn’t be either. She said the flu and COVID-19 both kill many people, but only the latter vaccine is mandatory.
It’s also too early to tell if the vaccine is working, Whitehead said. Initial trials have shown that all COVID-19 vaccines are effective to varying degrees, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Emily Porter, a media studies and Chinese student at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, said there was support for the vaccine among U.Va. students, but some students oppose it.
“The student body is largely liberal, although I would say there are nonconformists and conservatives who might have a problem,” she said. “As a proportion of the student population, the latter is much smaller. I also guess the majority of faculty and staff would be in favor of this as well. “
Emily Porter supports the vaccine and thinks it is a “wonderful scientific achievement”.
“There will definitely have to be some developments, especially with the new strains and everything,” she said. “But overall I think it’s amazing, and I had no problem getting it.”
Capital News Service is a program of the Robertson School of Media and Culture at Virginia Commonwealth University. Students in the program provide state government coverage for a variety of media in Virginia.