Should universities mandate COVID vaccines?

Written by Alex Anderson, Writer

Vaccine Injection

The views and opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not necessarily represent the newspaper as a whole.

No.

And before someone asks, this debate extends beyond the vaccine itself. Whether you choose to receive the vaccine or not is a decision I have no intention to influence, so what is this debate really about?

Freedom.

This debate concerns the freedom to choose and to make decisions that are best for our bodies. But as of September 20, 2021, more than 900 of the 5,300 colleges and universities across the United States have mandated the vaccine for students and, at some schools, employees. In this article, I will address some of the most common arguments in favor of mandating the vaccine with the hope of encouraging respect for the choices that our family, friends, colleagues, and fellow Americans are entitled to make.

“Public safety cancels personal freedom.”

Smoking is banned in many public places. You have to wear a seatbelt while you drive. You can’t shout “fire” in a crowded theater. It’s true that we have limits on our personal freedom. To add, many say freedom is frivolous in a pandemic that is still infecting lives across the nation. Perhaps, you have lost a loved one to the coronavirus or have even battled the disease yourself.

But ask yourself: if universities are able to force students and staff to carry with them a proof of vaccination card as the only means of setting foot in class or in student organization meetings, what new reasons may they find to exercise this power?

Let me ask you a different question: imagine a student who, since enrollment, has earned A’s in almost all of his or her classes and is very involved on campus. Is it right or is it wrong to suddenly demand that this student submit to a medical procedure in order to stay enrolled?

Dr. Julie Ponesse posed a similar question to her students at the University of Western Ontario, one of the largest universities in Canada. For two decades, she taught ethics and ancient philosophy until her recent firing after she refused the mandate that requires all professors to receive the vaccine. In a video posted by the Canadian Covid Care Alliance, she explains: “It’s ethically wrong to coerce someone to take a vaccine” and to impose this procedure “as a condition of employment.”

Although she voluntarily has taken “plenty of vaccines” in her life, she describes that her job is to “teach students to think critically, to ask questions that might expose a false argument, questions like, ‘Says who? Who is the authority giving this order? Should I trust them with control over my body?’” She is right to say that forcing someone to take a medical procedure without consent is unethical.

It is especially unethical to force a mandate when doctors and scientists have raised concerns over the causal relationship between blood clots, low platelets, and other medical issues and the Covid-19 vaccine, which also reportedly led to the deaths of ten residents in a Norwegian nursing home. These issues demand a clearer answer as to whether getting the vaccine actually outweighs the risks of not taking it. Unfortunately, the silence on these harmful and potentially fatal reactions reflects how embroiled politics is in science.

“Your refusal has cost all of us.”

These words come directly from President Joe Biden’s address to the nation on September 9. The President, who promised unity in his inaugural speech, slammed the nearly 80 million Americans who are unvaccinated. He told the public that his patience is “wearing thin,” labeling the current pandemic as one “of the unvaccinated.”

“This is not about freedom or personal choice,” he said. “It’s about protecting yourself and those around you.” Respectfully, he is wrong. All Americans have the liberty to make a personal health decision, particularly when it involves injecting a substance into their body.

A major reason behind support for a mandate stems from the argument that individuals will not only have better coverage against the disease but will also protect others. However, if vaccinated individuals are, in his words, “highly protected from severe illness” from the coronavirus, why does he spew invectives toward the unvaccinated? By his logic, they should not pose a risk to those with the vaccine.

Much of his argument relies on the claim that vaccinations are “safe, free, and convenient,” though he adds that the vaccine will not prevent an individual from contracting the disease, a reality the CDC has, also, recently acknowledged.

Prior to 2015, the CDC defined a vaccination as “an injection of a killed or weakened infectious organism in order to prevent the disease.” Then, subsequent to 2015 until just a few days before the President’s address, the CDC defined a vaccination as “the act of introducing a vaccine into the body to produce immunity to a specific disease.”

Now, the CDC has substituted the word “immunity” for “protection.” In other words, getting the vaccine means you can still contract and transmit Covid-19, so why require the injection?

“We already have mandated vaccines.”

Yes, we do, such as the polio vaccine and measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine; however, scientists concur that the coronavirus has unique characteristics that challenge our ability to eradicate the virus, even with a vaccine. This reason alone demonstrates why the CDC currently recommends that vaccinated individuals wear a mask and practice social distancing. Why?

As I wrote in the previous section, vaccinated individuals can still contract Covid-19, which sheds light on why the CDC changed its definition of a vaccination.

According to Johns Hopkins University’s website, “A typical vaccine development timeline takes 5 to 10 years, and sometimes longer, to assess whether the vaccine is safe and efficacious in clinical trials, complete the regulatory approval processes, and manufacture sufficient quantity of vaccine doses for widespread distribution.” This statement, while not suggesting that Covid-19 vaccines are ineffective or dangerous, should not be ignored.

If you recall, Operation Warp Speed, under former President Donald Trump and because of which vaccines were made publicly available without FDA approval, was only possible because of Emergency Use Authorization (EUA). Now, it seems that the CDC’s downgraded definition of a vaccination contradicts the basis of the EUA because it was only secured on the fundamental premise that it would help produce a vaccine that would prevent infection from and transmission of the coronavirus. While the Food and Drug Administration has fully authorized the Pfizer vaccine, the FDA has also stated that vaccine manufacturers are in the process of conducting long-term clinical trials, which should help answer questions about the vaccine.

For these reasons and more, universities should allow students to make a personal health decision without fear of losing enrollment, scholarship money, or opportunities to participate in student organizations. Professors and staff, too, should not have to fear losing their job.

Before you go

If this article has done nothing to alter your opinion on a vaccine mandate, I hope you will leave with this.

I have seen family and friends–unvaccinated and vaccinated–endure pain, loneliness, and loss as a result of contracting Covid-19. I have seen the restaurants I grew up eating at close and my grandfather, who is now 100, be separated from family due to the policies at his former assisted living facility. Last summer and fall, I missed meeting students in-person and vividly remember teaching to numerous black boxes on Zoom. Yes, I have missed the hugs. But sadly, the federal government and many universities have abused our emotions to strip us of our right to make a medical decision that is best for our bodies.

Except Austin College.

Taking the vaccine does not make any person more intelligent and moral than someone who has not received it. Being vaccinated does not mean you love your neighbor more than you love yourself. This position shows arrogance, and so does flaunting a blank vaccination card as if it’s a badge of honor.

Whether you decide to get vaccinated or not is entirely your business, not Austin College’s, and I am glad our university seems to recognize this.

I encourage you to research the vaccines using trustworthy resources and to talk with your doctor. Make an informed decision, not a political statement. Live by your convictions and not someone’s judgment.

Let’s respect the freedom we and others have to make a personal health decision.

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