Controversy surrounding COVID vaccine requirements at universities

Taylor Bradshaw, a WSU-Whitworth nursing student, studies for finals. Photo by Peyton Prudente.

by Peyton Prudente, 5/19/21

As the spring semester comes to a close, the debate around requiring COVID-19 vaccines for returning students in the fall is gaining more prominence and controversy.

A wide range of universities have already announced their requirement of student and faculty vaccination upon fall return. This list includes schools such as Washington State University, University of Washington, Whitman College, University of Portland, and Oregon State University, according to an article published by University Business.

This decision process, although it looks different based on universities, has created a divide in perspectives. Those who support the requirement of COVID-19 vaccines often analyze the benefits that the mandate would automatically provide. “Getting vaccinated [for protection against COVID-19] is the best tool that we have to stop the pandemic,” Whitworth Associate Professor of Health Science Robin Pickering said. “If everyone who can [get the vaccine] becomes vaccinated, we can all start doing more, building protection against complications, and getting our economy, mental health, and social support systems back to pre-pandemic levels.”

The CDC has also published information on why the COVID-19 vaccine is a safe and easy option for preventing the spread of the virus and eliminating the effects of the pandemic. Pickering said she believes mandatory vaccination is the best policy forward. “This is to not only protect those who are able to get vaccinated, but to also protect students, staff, and faculty who may be immunocompromised or who might otherwise be unable to become vaccinated.”

The COVID-19 vaccine has become more accessible recently, with a range of publicly available clinics and a new authorization for those ages 12 and up. Whitworth sophomore Sam Bergen said he participated in the university’s on-campus vaccination clinic. “I got the vaccine because it is the right thing to do and it allows me to not have to worry about the safety and health of myself and others as much as I had to before. It also helps with the decrease in necessity of masks in the future. Getting the vaccine was so easy to do on campus; the shot was painless, it was easy to sign up for, and it was completely free.”

There are also many students and staff who are not in favor of the COVID-19 vaccine mandate — or of the vaccine in general. Reasoning for this includes personal health risks or hesitance regarding the current vaccines’ rushed process to approval. This can be understood in circumstances such as someone who may have had an allergic reaction to the first dose of the vaccine, or someone who may have a severe allergic reaction to any of the components in the vaccine in general. Others may be wary of receiving the vaccine out of fear that it has less testing than other vaccines.

Students who are going into nursing have learned how vaccines work and why they are effective. Taylor Bradshaw explains how vaccines actually work:

Bradshaw, a nursing student at Washington State University-Spokane, said the vaccine is both safe and important. “Vaccines in the past, such as with smallpox, have helped to save thousands of lives. The research that has been done is extensive, and the vaccine would not be issued if it wasn’t safe. Not only this, but herd immunity is the only way to decrease the spread of the virus; some people can’t get the vaccine, so if you can, it can literally save the lives of others.”

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A weekly publication by Whitworth students

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