Is Univ. of Virginia right to unenroll hundreds of unvaccinated students?
- On Friday, August 20, 2021, the University of Virginia disenrolled 49 of their fall students for “failing to meet the school’s vaccine mandate.” Of the entire student body, 96 percent are vaccinated, while 335 students have medical and religious exemptions.
- The university spokesperson Brian Coy told CNN that 189 of the 238 disenrolled students 'may not have been planning to return to the university this fall at all.” The removed group of 49 had already chosen their class schedules.
- As of Monday, August 23, 2021, over half of the population (55.8 percent) in Virginia has been vaccinated while 63.1 percent have at least one dose.
- According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, each state decides which vaccines are required for school enrollment and attendance through the State Immunization Program or State Health Department. Exemptions vary by state law.
- Routine immunizations for children include 14 vaccines for vaccine-preventable diseases like Chickenpox, Hepatitis, Polio, and Tetanus.
In-person learning at the university level is critical for many programs of study, and this is frankly impossible to accomplish safely if infection rates are high on campus. Since vaccination is our best bet for controlling the virus, the University of Virginia is right to reverse the enrollment of those students who choose not to abide by its vaccine mandate. Large lecture halls, football games, fraternity parties, book stores, and musical ensemble rehearsals are just a few of the many campus gathering points which have the potential to become super spreaders if unvaccinated individuals are allowed access.
The University of Virginia’s vaccination policy is fair for several reasons. Firstly, the vaccine is easily obtained; the government has bent over backward to create partnerships with religious leaders, bars, and other community spaces to ensure that everyone who wants a vaccine can receive one. Further, UVA students were notified they would need to be vaccinated in May, leaving plenty of time to receive the vaccine before the beginning of the fall term. The University has also offered exemptions for those with religious or medical issues which prohibit vaccination. This easy availability of very safe and heavily monitored vaccines means there is no reason for those choosing to attend the University of Virginia not to follow the University’s policies.
Those opposing this type of regulation will likely point to the low levels of morbidity amongst young people. Even though most young people survive the infection, the risk of long-term complications or spreading to vulnerable individuals is simply too great to ignore. This is particularly important because students may be traveling to and from campus.
Worried about getting COVID? The UVA campus is the place for you. 97% of students are vaccinated; students and staff are expected to wear masks, regardless of vaccination status, and UVA-Health provides free vaccinations. The UVA has banned unvaccinated students from campus grounds since July 1 and deactivated their ID cards, making it impossible for them to access campus resources. With all of these policies, it seems unnecessarily harsh for UVA to escalate their already strict policies to unenrolling their non-vaccinated students.
Meanwhile, UVA staff members are not subject to the same punishments. Faculty are encouraged to be vaccinated but have not had their IDs deactivated or have been banned from campus or fired so far. It seems only students are being discriminated against and bullied into getting vaccinated. UVA provides no recourse for students who have acquired immunity from a previous COVID infection, even though they allow concentrated amounts for other immunizations. Studies show acquired immunity provides equal protection versus vaccination, even for variants.
Whether students are hesitant to take a new hastily developed vaccine, concerned about its efficacy, necessity, or safety, or simply believe a vaccine mandate undermines their personal freedoms as Americans, we shouldn’t be strong-arming them into making personal health decisions. We should view the unvaccinated as prudently discerning their unique medical situation in unprecedented times, rather than punishing them and forcing them to choose between their health, values, and conscience and their education.