Written by Elizabeth Funderburk, Staff Writer
Polio. Measles. Mumps. Chickenpox. Those are only a few of the many diseases that are practically gone for good because of highly effective vaccines–and a population willing to take them. Yet today, there is a rise in the number of “anti-vaxxers–” those who refuse to be vaccinated and spread misinformation about life-saving vaccines. While dangerous enough in normal times, these once-fringe figures are contributing to thousands of deaths during a global pandemic that could have been prevented if only people were listening to doctors and scientists rather than Facebook posts and Fox News hosts.
Recently, Texas Governor Greg Abbott declared that Texas public schools cannot enforce mask or vaccine mandates. Private schools, however, such as Austin College, can implement such requirements if they wish. We already have a mask mandate. Why not also have a vaccine mandate? Austin College already requires students to get other vaccines before coming to campus, so the COVID-19 vaccine should be no different, especially now that the Pfizer vaccine has been FDA approved. It’s also free and readily available for anyone who wants it. Some students may have legitimate medical concerns that would prevent them from taking the vaccine, and those students should not be penalized as long as they have a doctor’s note verifying that this is the case. But for all students who can get it, they should, and if they refuse, they should not be allowed on campus.
Now, some may claim that this isn’t necessary–that young people are healthy and don’t get really sick and die from COVID. First of all, this isn’t true: deaths have been reported in children as young as four. Additionally, some students may have underlying health conditions that make them more susceptible to the virus. Second of all, students are not the only people on campus. Professors, administrators, campus police, cafeteria and sanitation workers, and even visiting parents can also be found at Austin College, and they are just as important to our community as students are. As older people, they are more at risk. By getting vaccinated, we would be not only protecting ourselves, but protecting them as well.
Austin College prides itself in being “Roosponsible”- one way to prove it would be to require that students get vaccinated. Many ‘Roos were vaccinated back in April and May through college provided transportation to Sherman High School (and had the ability to miss class to do so). Because not all students have access to cars, the college would need to ensure that there is transportation for students to get vaccines, and professors should be understanding if a student has to miss class for their vaccine appointment. Austin College could potentially save lives if it decides to make the vaccine mandatory. As a private college, it won’t lose funding for taking this action. The sooner everyone gets vaccinated, the sooner we can go back to normal. Therefore, I believe that there should be a vaccine mandate to keep the community safe.