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Too Early to Tell: UT Students on COVID-19 Vaccination

By Maddie Atherton

Students at The University of Tampa are required to submit several immunization records to verify their health and wellness before they can live on campus. Two MMR vaccines (measles, mumps, and rubella), as well as one Meningitis shot after the age of 16 (if living on campus), and lastly three Hepatitis B vaccines. 

For some, providing this information is an “invasion of privacy” but for most students, it is a way to protect themselves from an outbreak of disease. But, will UT require a COVID-19 vaccination, when approved by the FDA and readily available, in order to be accepted and attend classes on campus? And furthermore, will students and staff want to get the vaccination so soon after it comes out without being able to see the long-term effects it has?

Public universities in Massachusetts, Syracuse University, Indiana University, Cornell, Purdue and Johns Hopkins all have required their students and community to get a flu shot prior to using campus facilities. 

After all, UT does require the mentioned vaccines to protect our students and administrators from an outbreak, so wouldn’t it make sense to require a vaccine to protect us from a COVID-19 outbreak on campus? So far, there are several COVID-19 vaccines going through clinical trials, but none of them have been approved by the FDA for public use or even emergency use yet. There are however, 43 vaccines being tested on humans in a clinical trial. 

As of now, there is no exact date that a vaccine will be made available to the public. President Trump has stated multiple times that there will be one by the end of the 2020 year. However, the Center of Disease Control (CDC) director, Robert Redfield has mentioned that it’s likely one won’t be accessible until mid 2021 and that supplies would be very limited in the first few weeks the vaccine is approved. Meaning not everyone can get one immediately. 

After speaking with Eric Cardenas, director of Public Information and Publications at UT, regarding this topic he said, “It is too early at this time to determine how a COVID-19 vaccine would be administered and in what ways it would affect the classroom experience at UT. I am sure we will follow all CDC and American College Health Association (ACHA) guidelines regarding a vaccine once it is available.”  

Kimberly Reid, UT freshman said she would not get the vaccine right away because she is scared of the side effects. When asking about what she would do if UT required it to attend campus, she simply “doesn’t know.” Some students tend to feel the same way. Another student, Krissy Roberts, said that she also would not get the vaccine right away, but she would get it if UT required it. Krissy explained that she does think UT should require the vaccine “if it would help things get back to normal quicker.” 

Although no other University has made any statement about whether the COVID-19 vaccination will be mandatory, there is proof of previous states requiring young adults and employees to be immunized for certain diseases. Several states mandate that employees that work in certain facilities be vaccinated for other diseases as a “condition of employment.”

“I am not in an immunocompromised group, so I would be willing to get the vaccine. Again, as long as it has been fully tested (independent of politics) and shown to be both effective and without long term problems,” said Heather Masonjones, professor of biology. As she is not an advocate for vaccines being developed without the proper testing, she does think that a COVID-19 vaccine would help to slow down the spread and bring us back to normal. 

“I know myself and my colleagues would all prefer to be in-person with all of you – I miss my boisterous classes where we have frequent discussions of the material and get to talk about ideas – so anything that can help get us back together would be welcome,” said Masonjones.

As for some students and faculty/staff at the University, they would prefer to be back on campus and interact with each other via face-to-face rather than through a computer screen. 

Paul Greenwood, professor of biology and dean of the College of Natural and Health Science, also believes that a vaccine should be required for on-campus learning, with exceptions for certain people that cannot take it due to health reasons. Greenwood believes it would be a good way to stop the spread on campus. 

When reaching out to local High Schools in the Tampa Bay area, Kimberly Sutton, an Exercise and Health Science teacher at Steinbrenner High School, and UT alumna, had some conflicting views. 

She said that she would not get the vaccine right away without years of testing done first. She wants more testing to be done to assure its safety and effectiveness over a longer period of time. 

“Handwashing and masks have proven to be a good measure to prevent the spread,” said Sutton. “Most people will be able to create their own antibodies to support their immune system against COVID-19. Use of donor antibodies has proven to be successful for those who are not able to fend off the disease.”

Interestingly, when asked if schools at all levels should require a COVID-19 vaccination to attend on-campus, Sutton said “I do not think any school should require a COVID-19 vaccine to attend on campus learning. As with all vaccines, it is your right to choose.”

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