Utica College deciding on making COVID-19 vaccine mandatory for students this fall

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Photo from Alexandria Leland.

Nick McAdam, Editor-in-Chief

A small list of schools across the United States have made the decision to require students to receive a COVID-19 vaccine including, but not limited to Syracuse University, Cornell University, Rutgers University and Brown University. 

Right now, Utica College will monitor the vaccine rollout and will make decisions from there.

“We are actively monitoring the rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine and the corresponding development of guidance and counsel with regard to COVID vaccination policies as they relate to the college’s student immunization requirements,” said Shad Crowe, the vice president for emergency management.

With the accessibility to receiving the vaccine increasing, schools requiring inoculation feel this process is natural in an attempt to get institutions back to normal. Last month, about 240 student employees, faculty and staff received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine in the Strebel Student Lounge. Since then, multiple vaccinations have been offered to the community between Strebel and the Burrstone House. An updated number of vaccinations was not provided by the college.

Staff from Walgreens waiting to administer vaccines at three vaccination tables during the March 11 clinic. Photo courtesy of Alexandria Leland.

However, plans to distribute the vaccine a second time were halted after recent news of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine recall. The story, still unfolding, indicates that a total of six women between the ages of 18 and 48 who received the vaccine developed blood clots afterward, though the effects are being labeled as rare by the Food and Drug Administration.

The college, in its partnership with Walgreens Pharmacy, quickly changed course and offered the Pfizer vaccine on April 13. 

“Please note that the Pfizer vaccine is a two-dose series; we have scheduled a second clinic on May 4 in order to give the second dose to everyone who receives the first dose today,” according to an email from Crowe.

Utica College currently has 23 positive cases adding to its total of 126 positives for this semester. This number is higher than the 19 positive cases toward the end of the fall semester last year when the college responded with a number of elements including soft quarantine in residence halls such as North Hall, and grab-and-go meals from the dining hall.

The most Crowe could offer, as of right now, is that the college will notify all community members of any immediate changes to the policy. He indicated the college respects the decisions of other colleges and universities who are on both sides of the decision.

Students are also on both sides of the fence, mainly about the side effects of each vaccination combined with the recent Johnson & Johnson vaccine news. Others indicate that although the side effects were present, that they were still happy to receive the vaccine regardless.

“I had flu-like symptoms for about 14 hours but then I felt perfectly fine,” Junior Cora Sawyer said. “Overall, I’m definitely happy I received the vaccine.”

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In a recent Tangerine article, a student indicated that she will not receive the vaccine. Senior MacKenzie Lowden witnessed the side effects of the Johnson and Johnson vaccine that affected her sister. Lowden prefers to wait for more research and trial results to come out about all vaccines, citing that the amount of time between the vaccine rollout and trial periods wasn’t enough.

Lowden isn’t alone. A report from NPR showed that one in four Americans do not have plans to receive the vaccine, putting a halt to the desire for herd immunity. Five percent of the country is still undecided.

Although the goal for much of the United States, including Utica College, is a slow and safe return to normalcy, students such as Junior Connor Mirasola do not see that happening any time soon. Mirasola believes that student vaccinations will make the community feel much safer being on-campus, but he doesn’t see a return to normalcy until 2022 at the earliest due to the lack of data and accessibility of the vaccine right now.

The controversy of mandated vaccines has put a taint on much of the students’ opinions on it. Until the college makes its final decision, students such as Mirasola will wait to make plans on how to approach his senior year from there.

Regardless, this wouldn’t be the first time a higher-education institution has required vaccinations for in-person attendance. Utica College is a part of several four-year institutions spread across the country that have required at least one vaccine for in-person enrollment both in the past and present.

The next decision is still up in the air for Utica College, though the conversation has started among members of the administration. Moving forward, the college will continue its plans for students to receive a second dose of the Pfizer vaccine in early May while also providing a combination of this vaccine with the Moderna vaccine in the Burrstone House.


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