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More reasons to mandate COVID-19 vaccinations

Recently, Washtenaw Community College issued a press release announcing its participation in the White House’s COVID-19 College Vaccine Challenge. Awesome. But what would be really awesome is if WCC took the challenge one step further to mandate COVID-19 vaccinations.

There are at least two good reasons to mandate COVID-19 vaccinations. First, the current vaccination rate among 16-20-year-olds in Washtenaw County is about 40%. That’s abysmal. That vaccination rate virtually guarantees continued spread of the virus in both high schools and universities that have chosen not to mandate COVID-19 vaccinations.

It challenges the community’s ability to conduct in-person learning in any educational setting. Students in the 16-20 age bracket are likely to live with younger siblings. Those under the age of 12 cannot currently receive the vaccine. Exposure of one member of a household will likely result in exposure of all members of the household.

The second reason is that about 25% of all community college students have dependent children in their households. Most of these dependent children will be in the under-12 age bracket. They will be ineligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccination until the FDA approves it for use in children. The FDA has been kind of non-committal about when they might grant that approval. Their current best guess is sometime in February or March of 2022.

Community benefits when institutions mandate COVID-19 vaccinations

When institutions like Washtenaw Community College mandate COVID-19 vaccinations, it sends multiple messages. First, WCC is serious about delivering in-person learning, which is superior to online learning. Second, WCC is serious about protecting its own community of students, faculty, staff and visitors. Third, WCC is serious about protecting the “hidden community” that WCC’s community comes into contact with. This includes minor children and medically vulnerable members of households where WCC students, faculty and staff live.

By moving to mandate COVID-19 vaccinations, WCC also can increase vaccinations among minority populations where the vaccination rate currently lags. These also happen to be the populations where COVID-19 has a significantly negative impact and cases are surging.

Community institutions have a responsibility to serve, educate and protect the community in times of trouble. Trouble is here and taking steps to mandate COVID-19 vaccinations for all on-campus personnel and students will shorten the pandemic. It will increase the quality of instruction and provide a much-needed break from the uncertainty of pandemic-related closures. Were WCC to issue a COVID-19 vaccination mandate, it could also reduce illness among the staff. (Wouldn’t want any of the Vice Presidents getting sick.) Reducing time lost to illness and medical treatments will also reduce WCC’s benefits costs for subsequent years. Finally (and maybe most importantly), mandatory vaccinations will also help to protect members of the community who cannot currently protect themselves.

There is no reason NOT to mandate COVID-19 vaccinations on campus.

Photo Credit: Allison Shelley for EDUimages , via Flickr