Northwest recently announced that it would be seeking to return to a “traditional campus experience” for the fall 2021 semester. The specifics of what that means have yet to be established, but likely it will be a semester that resembles the fall of 2019 more than the fall of 2020. In order for the traditional semester to be a success, Northwest should do everything in its power to require students to get the COVID-19 vaccine prior to attending in the fall.
Required vaccinations for attending Northwest are not a new concept. Northwest requires students have a measles, mumps, rubella — MMR — vaccination and meningococcal vaccination. While the University did not require it, they did also encourage students to receive an H1N1 vaccination in 2010, another vaccine that was developed rapidly in response to a pandemic.
Everyone who plans to attend Northwest will also have ample access to the vaccine prior to the fall semester. All Missouri residents were eligible to receive the vaccine April 9, and over 300 students received their first dose prior to that date at Mosaic’s vaccine clinic April 7. The entire country will be opening up eligibility as President Joe Biden announced he wants 90% of adults to be eligible to receive the first round by April 19, and all states have announced open eligibility by May 1.
As we have seen time and time again, recommendations for precautions to slow or stop COVID-19 aren’t as effective as requirements. Marquette researchers found that mask compliance in Wisconsin jumped from 41.5% when masks were encouraged to 90% when masks were required.
There, of course, is and will be an outcry regarding any sort of requirement for the COVID-19 vaccine. It will often come from the same people who still don’t believe masks work with zero scientific evidence to support their claim. The speed with which the vaccine was developed led to hesitancy for a significant portion of adults in the U.S. Around 13% of adults say they will definitely not be getting the vaccine, while 17% say they will wait and see, according to the Kaiser vaccine monitor.
The speed of the development process does not mean the vaccine skipped important safety steps. It still underwent the same clinical trials as all other vaccines and was authorized by the FDA for emergency use. The reason, in part, for this extremely fast process, was the scientific community coming together to make the vaccine in an unprecedented manner. Increased funding from the government, the ability to build on previous research and making the vaccine a priority all helped with the accelerated development.
Rutgers University, Notre Dame and Duke are some of the schools on the ever-growing list of those that will be requiring students to receive the vaccine in some form or another. Many of the schools that have already announced they will be requiring the vaccine are private institutions. They have more control over attendance requirements for their schools, so they were able to make this decision without approval from state governments.
Northwest will have an uphill battle on that front. Gov. Mike Parson would not support a statewide mask mandate despite all scientific evidence telling him it was the right call. The Missouri legislature has recently introduced a bill loosening basic vaccine requirements for things like measles and wants to ban COVID-19 vaccine passports. These aren’t exactly the kind of people to approve of requiring a vaccine that could save and improve lives.
Regardless of what it thinks the state government might do, Northwest should still attempt to make getting the vaccine a requirement. If students really want to be cheering together in Bearcat Stadium, having more in-person meetings and maybe even sitting in a class without needing to wear a mask, then they should get the vaccine, and encouraging isn’t enough. The University should require students to get the vaccine for the good of everyone in the Northwest community.