Parent Responses to College COVID-19 Vaccine Policies

Parent Responses to College COVID-19 Vaccine Policies

Disclaimer: In the hopes of restoring in-person learning and going to some semblance of a pre-COVID-19 atmosphere, some colleges are requiring students to be vaccinated in order to enroll for fall 2021.

We recently asked the parents in our Paying For College 101 Facebook group how they felt about these mandates and are reporting back on what their responses were.

Since the news about this is changing daily, we strongly advise parents who are seeking information about how specific schools and states are handling the vaccine process to contact the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and those particular states and schools.

As COVID-19 has taken a toll on higher education across the country, colleges and universities are taking varied positions when it comes to COVID-19 vaccines. While some may require the vaccine, others are stopping short of making it a mandate for returning to campus. No matter which position they take, the policies of colleges and universities have been met with a variety of opinions from families.

 

Making the Case for a Mandate

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While there may be conflicting feelings regarding vaccines in general, many families feel that requiring COVID-19 vaccinations would ensure a return to normal campus life.

Additionally, mandating comprehensive vaccines campus-wide would ensure safety for students, faculty, and staff.

“I’m all in. It should be required across the board with extremely limited ways to opt-out.” — Maggie C.

There is strong support for requiring the COVID-19 vaccine for returning to in-person learning in the fall. Some families are using the comparison to other vaccines that have been long required for entrance to colleges and universities.

In many cases, vaccines are required for admittance to elementary and high schools and even daycare facilities. Families see this as a very reasonable comparison.

“Here’s a short and not comprehensive list of diseases that have a lower mortality rate than COVID-19 for people who are unvaccinated against them: chickenpox, pertussis (whooping cough), measles, mumps, hepatitis A, and polio. If those diseases sound familiar, it’s probably because you aren’t allowed to send your kid to school, resident camp, or some sports programs without the child being vaccinated against these diseases for the safety of the community at large. Going away to [a] resident college is a privilege, not a right.” — Andrea S.N.

Many parents feel that since higher education is not a universal right, that it’s, in fact, a choice; vaccines can and should be mandated in order to attend in-person classes.

If a student makes the choice to return to campus in the fall, they should be required by the college or university to abide by a vaccine mandate.

“100 percent in favor. College is a choice, not a right. Anyone who doesn’t want the vaccine does not have to choose college right now.” Barbara K.

 

Encouraged, But Not Required

Some schools seem to be mirroring the sentiments of many families who have mixed feelings about the vaccine in general. In fact, there are colleges and universities that are not yet ready to make vaccinations a requirement for in-person learning.

These schools are instead, encouraging students to get vaccinated but are stopping short of making it mandatory. By providing an option, students can get the vaccine if they choose to, or could opt for remote learning if not.

In either case, parents urge colleges and universities to make vaccines readily available for students who want them.   

 “I don’t think it should be mandatory but they should offer the vaccine to those that wish to take it.” — Maryann R.

“Not sure I have ever been a fan of ‘required’ medical anything. They can give the option of learning remotely if you are not vaccinated and let the student decide.” —  Rochal R.G.

[Vaccines are ] “highly encouraged but not required. No privileges for students that vaccinate, no discrimination/exclusion from activities for unvaccinated. Choice, choice, choice! Common sense will prevail. If most vaccinate, non-vaxxers will be protected as well to some extent. Even though I’m in health care, I don’t believe in forced mandates.” — Eva B.

Some parents have expressed that their hesitancy is related to the newness or what appears to be limited research on these particular vaccines.  

“I am very mixed about it. As a registered nurse, I am very pro-vaccine, I received it myself back in December. That being said, I don’t feel that there is enough research that’s been done on the long-term effects of the COVID-19 vaccine, especially in the younger population. I do not believe that it should be mandated at this point.” — Jessica F.

In some states, there are still issues with access to the vaccines, which brings up the concern about making them mandatory. Some parents feel that If a student doesn’t have access to a vaccine, that shouldn’t create a barrier to attending their chosen school.

 “If there aren’t enough doses to go around it shouldn’t be required. Right now, in my area, group 1A is still not complete!” — Christine L.

 

Making the Case Against a Mandate

Just as there are many voices in support of mandating the vaccine, there are some who oppose the requirement. 

“I do not support mandatory vaccines in this case. I feel these vaccines were rushed through the process and have not been diligently tested. We still don’t know the long-lasting side effects they may have. I think people should have a choice.” — Luisa D.

In fact, the University of Maine system is not currently requiring the vaccine because the three available vaccines have not received full approval from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). 

“Vaccinations should not be required until they’ve been fully tested and FDA approved.” — Keena F.

There is a hesitation among some families to mandate that students receive a vaccine that currently only has approval for emergency use. 

“No vaccine allowable by Emergency Use Authorization only (not yet FDA approved) should ever be mandated.” — Katie W.

Additionally, while COVID-19 seems to spread rapidly among this age group, some feel that a mandate is unnecessary given the relatively low rate of severe cases associated with the college-age population.

“This age group is not prime candidates for severe cases of COVID-19 as are aged populations and so with the vaccine being experimental, and unapproved by FDA, plus the manufacturers have no liability in cases of injury, so I would say no.” — Cynthia C.

Clearly, the COVID-19 policies at colleges and universities widely vary, therefore it will be critically important for you to understand the COVID-19 vaccine policies at your child’s school.

This means comprehending what the policy means, and specifically, whether or not your child will be required to have the vaccine in order to return to campus in the fall.

It will be important to note how any violation of the policy could impact your child. 

As mentioned in the disclaimer, information about and policies on COVID-19 are changing rapidly. It is strongly advised that you seek out information about how specific schools and states are handling the vaccine roll-out process, who is eligible, and when vaccines will be made available. 

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Melanie Forstall Lemoine

Melanie Forstall Lemoine, Ph.D. is a member of the Special Education faculty at Southeastern Louisiana University. Shas worked in the field of education for over 20 years as a teacher, grant writer, program director, and higher education instructor. She is a freelance writer specializing in education, and education-related content. Additionally, she has co-authored book chapters focused on providing services for students with disabilities. She is also a freelance blogger and lifestyle writer for various publications.
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