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Mandatory vaccination should pair with mandatory masks on campus

WCC announced this week that it is joining the ranks of campuses that will enforce mandatory masks. Currently, the College has no plans to implement mandatory vaccination for faculty, staff, and students on campus. Additionally, WCC will not perform COVID-19 screening or health checks on people returning to campus. WCC left open the door, however, for additional modifications as the COVID-19 situation changes.

On Wednesday and Thursday, the Washtenaw County Health Department issued new coronavirus safety guidelines for residents. Officials indicated that Washtenaw County would likely lose its moderate COVID-19 rating due to increasingly uncontrolled spread. On Thursday, county officials warned that “community spread” of COVID-19 had done just that.

The urgency of controlling the viral spread cannot be understated. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are now examining two emerging COVID-19 variants – Lambda and Epsilon – that appear to transmit as readily as Delta does but have also developed a resistance to the current vaccines. According to researchers, Lambda is spreading rapidly through South America, having first emerged in Peru. Epsilon, which emerged in California last year, is now spreading rapidly in Pakistan.

Mandating masks is a positive step toward controlling the spread of COVID-19. However, one of the best options to control the spread of the COVID-19 virus is to implement mandatory vaccination for everyone on campus this fall. Community spread provides significant opportunity for the virus to mutate. Each successive mutation will be worse than the one before it. Mandatory vaccination is one way to easily slow the spread of the virus and better control its mutability.

Mandatory vaccines would protect Washtenaw County

Currently, Washtenaw County has reported a 67% first-dose vaccination rate. This is much higher than many other places in Michigan, but two-thirds of the county’s non-student population won’t be enough to withstand the return of the students, which begins August 25. UM is requiring all its students to vaccinate before coming to campus. This should help, but other campuses – like Eastern Michigan University and Washtenaw Community College must also mandate vaccinations to slow the spread of the disease if Washtenaw County hopes to achieve reasonable control over the virus. Not mandating vaccination merely creates havens for the unvaccinated to wreak havoc on campus and in the community.

Not requiring vaccination for all campus workers, visitors and in-person students is akin to not boarding up your windows in advance of a hurricane. Boarding your windows cannot hold back a hurricane, but it can change the outcome for your house.

This is likely the last opportunity to apply a dose of prevention to community spread before the next wave hits. Institutions like Washtenaw Community College and EMUmust do their part to discourage the virus from circulating freely on their campuses. If they do not close ranks with UM on the issue of mandatory vaccination, they will commit Washtenaw County to agonizing months of entirely preventable sickness and death.

Photo Credit: Penn State University, via Flickr