Vaccinations Should be Mandated for College

Liv Baker, Reporter

   As vaccines become more available to different demographics and age groups, the question of whether college mandates for vaccines should be in place, and if they are even constitutional is emerging. Certain colleges such as Duke, Brown, Notre Dame and Rutgers are requiring that incoming students be vaccinated, with religious and medical exemptions, but it is unlikely that Florida universities will follow suit.

   Colleges have already had vaccination mandates for certain diseases, such as polio, diphtheria, tetanus and whooping cough. It is without a doubt that these required vaccinations prevent outbreaks in residence halls and for nearby citizens. It could be argued that if all students were also required to get vaccinated by their universities, it would help rapidly decrease the COVID rates that tend to spike around college towns.

   Of course, there comes a push from hesitant parents who fear the side effects of the COVID vaccine, as only 58% of parents would vaccinate their kids, according to CNBC. Side effects include swelling and headaches, with 63% of Pfizer vaccinated patients reporting fatigue. With or without these common side effects, building immunization through the vaccine is the best way to ensure medical safety for individuals and their friends and family.

    Advocates for a lack of a vaccination mandate may claim that required immunization violates federal law, however students who plan on attending schools with a mandate were given a reasonable amount of time to consider whether the school is the right choice for them. 

    Colleges have the responsibility to protect their students and local citizens. Research from NYTimes suggests that COVID outbreaks on campuses have led to COVID related deaths in nearby nursing homes; by getting vaccinated, students and staff can help to create a safe space for everyone. If a vaccine were mandated it would directly benefit not just student populations, but nearby communities as well.

   As far as enforcement, colleges plan to have students show proof of vaccination in order to return to campus, and punishment for a failure to be vaccinated can lead to expulsion in extreme cases. Other preventative actions will continue to be in place during the school year, such as wearing masks and social distancing. 

   Arguably, vaccination is the only way for students who hope for normalcy to return to the school setting. If students get vaccinated, there is likely a chance that the school will resume extracurriculars, classes and gatherings- all of which have been cut down on during the pandemic.

  As for Florida, most schools such as University of South Florida and University of Central Florida will not require vaccinations, although it is encouraged on their school webpages. Nova Southeastern University is one of the only schools so far to require vaccination, students are given the deadline of Aug. 1.

     Other schools have proposed solutions like pop-up clinics, such as Saint Leo University which opened a two-day vaccination clinic. Opening on-site clinics, even if they operate briefly, is a huge contributor to mass immunization and is one of the easiest and most effective ways to make the vaccine available to students, preparing them to return to school in the most productive fashion. 

   Florida schools may be hesitant to require vaccinations, as the opinion of Gov. Ron Desantis tends to be a popular one amongst Florida students. Desantis issued an executive order banning businesses from requiring proof of vaccination for services, claiming that these “vaccination passports” limits individual freedoms and interrupts daily lives. Those who oppose getting vaccinated, whether it contradicts the wellbeing of themselves or others, can always opt to do online university if they are uncomfortable with their school’s mandate.

   Some students understand that getting their degree and getting vaccinated go hand-in-hand; incoming FGCU freshman Graycie Spitzer says that “vaccines should be required more often, if it will promote healthy living and if allows for the normal school setting to return.” 

   In the year the aftermath of the 2020 pandemic, collectively it is the responsible thing to get vaccinated to promote healthy communities and decrease the amount of COVID-19 related deaths. Only through mass immunization, whether voluntary or by mandated means, can the world return to the mask-free life as we know it.