Kristi Weyand
Executive Editor

A Quaker Campus poll conducted independent of the College found that students support a vaccine mandate for returning to campus. The Whittier College COVID-19 Compliance Task Force has since stated that vaccines will be required for all returning students, with exemptions only based on health or religious reasons.

The QC sent students and faculty a poll regarding COVID-19 vaccine attitudes on Friday, May 14. The following Monday, May 17, the COVID-19 Compliance Task Force released a statement regarding an update on vaccine requirements. According to the Compliance Task Force, 85 percent of Whittier College employees are vaccinated, and 78 percent support the policy change to require vaccines on campus. The QC poll, conducted during the release of this information, found similar results, although some students voiced concerns regarding returning to campus and a vaccine mandate.

Approximately 70 percent of students are fully vaccinated, with 10 percent having received the first dose, and two percent with a vaccine appointment scheduled. Only 9.7 percent of students stated that they are not vaccinated and do not plan to be vaccinated. Still, a majority of students stated that they do plan to be fully vaccinated before school resumes on August 24. Students, staff, faculty, and contracted employees are expected to submit proof of full vaccination by July 1. Proof of vaccination is accepted as a completed vaccination card or documentation of full vaccination from a healthcare provider. Staff, employees, and contracted employees are permitted to deny the vaccine as long as it is distributed under the Food and Drug Administration’s Emergency Use Authorization. However, once the FDA approves one COVID-19 vaccine, the College is able to require all staff and employees to get the vaccine. The only exemptions for students and employees, once a vaccine is approved, are disability and “sincerely-held” religious beliefs.

Approximately 67.5 percent of students support the COVID vaccine requirement and 22.5 percent do not support the requirement, with 10 percent of respondents unsure of their stance on a vaccination mandate. When asked if they had any hesitancies regarding the vaccine, 15 percent of students said yes, with 63.7 percent answering no, and 20.9 percent having some hesitancies, but still wanting to get vaccinated. Students who shared more regarding their hesitancies largely stated health concerns as a reason they do not want to get vaccinated. Two students shared that they were worried the vaccine may impact their fertility and one commented that they were unaware how it may impact them breastfeeding. Experts have stated that vaccines will not have long-term effects on fertility or pregnancy because of the mRNA design of the vaccine. Although some recipients of the vaccine have reported that the vaccine impacted their menstrual cycle — either making it heavier, earlier, or occurring post-menopausal — reproductive health scientists state this is due to an immune response, as the uterus is a part of the immune system, and not an indication of the vaccine impacting fertility or having long-term effects.

Other students noted that they did not want to get vaccinated, as they felt they were healthy and trusted their immune system. Only 12.9 percent of respondents said they had COVID-19 previously, and an additional 7.9 percent said they were unsure. However, it is unknown whether antibodies from catching COVID-19 will protect against the virus long-term or if it will protect against other variants. Doctors have also said that the COVID-19 variant first identified in the United Kingdom has led to more hospitalizations of teenagers and young adults. Students who prefer to rely on natural immunity are not exempt from the Whittier College vaccine requirement unless they have a sincerely-held religious belief or medical exemptions.

Before attending the College, students are required to have completed a physical, including vision, within the previous year, two doses of the Measles, Mumps Rubella vaccination, one dose of Tdap in the last 10 years, three doses of a Hepatitis vaccination, a booster of Menactra or Menveo, a tuberculosis skin test completed within the year before the first day of class, and a chickenpox vaccination, if one cannot show they had chickenpox as a child. For students who stated legal concerns regarding a vaccine mandate, vaccine requirements have been in place for almost a decade and have been upheld by courts. California, in particular, has a history of ruling in favor of school’s vaccine requirements and against baseless exemptions. Furthermore, asking for proof of vaccination is not a violation of HIPAA, as the individual still has the choice of denying to reveal their vaccination status and no party has unlawful access to medical records. 

Yet, students still largely responded that they are ready to return in-person. 37.8 percent of students would like to return in-person for classes only, and 32.3 percent said they would return to live on campus as well. Only 10.3 percent of students said they would like to continue distance learning. Students did air concerns regarding a return to in-person activities on campus. One student said they wished that there was an option to choose a vaccinated roommate, or make it clear that one strongly prefers a vaccinated roommate. Two students air concerns that classrooms and buildings would be too small to maintain sufficient distancing and safety protocol, with one adding that they felt masks should be required but could hinder learning for some students. When asked if they would feel comfortable returning to campus if vaccines were not mandated, 55.9 percent of students responded they would not and 36.2 percent of students said they would still feel comfortable if the College had not required vaccines. The remaining respondents were unsure, some specifying they may feel more comfortable if other safety protocols such as masks and distancing were enforced. 

The Office of Housing and Residential Life has stated that additional information on vaccine requirements, quarantining for international students, and other COVID-related protocols will be released to students as it becomes available. Currently, students who are living on campus this summer must submit proof of vaccination by June 1 or participate in the College’s testing program. All students returning in Fall 2021 must submit proof of vaccination by July 1 or request an exemption from the Health and Wellness Center. Proof of vaccination can be given through the student’s health portal. International students can show proof of vaccination of any vaccine approved by the World Health Organization. Faculty, staff, and contracted workers may decline the vaccine through submitting the Personal Declination Form or should submit vaccination documents to Human Resources.

Updated information regarding FDA approval of vaccines, returning protocols, and whether unvaccinated students will be able to reside on campus will continue to roll-out over the summer.

Featured Image: Courtesy of EHS Daily Advisor

Author

  • Kristi Weyand is a third-year double-majoring in English and Political Science with a perhaps-too-hopeful plan to pursue a career in journalism. Her time as the Arts & Entertainment Editor has led to her interest in the intersection of entertainment and ideas generally seen as political, inspiring her way-too-many thinkpieces. When she is not writing, she can be found procrastinating by baking, watching bad movies, over-listening to the same music, and crying over succulents she just can’t seem to keep alive.

Kristi Weyand is a third-year double-majoring in English and Political Science with a perhaps-too-hopeful plan to pursue a career in journalism. Her time as the Arts & Entertainment Editor has led to her interest in the intersection of entertainment and ideas generally seen as political, inspiring her way-too-many thinkpieces. When she is not writing, she can be found procrastinating by baking, watching bad movies, over-listening to the same music, and crying over succulents she just can’t seem to keep alive.

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