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Commentary: The vaccine mandate

Photo Courtesy of Arek Socha | Pixabay

President Joe Biden put a nationwide mandate in place to fight COVID-19 this past week requiring American employers with 100 or more workers to require vaccination across their entire workforce.

This mandate has not only sparked nationwide outrage among those who believe vaccination should be left to personal choice, but it has also opened the door to various vaccine mandates in the near future. One of those doors leads to university mandates on all on-campus residents, something that now seems more conceivable than ever.

While a university mandate here at Drake once seemed far-fetched, Biden’s new mandate unlocks that door, should the university ever want to open it. Granted, the university would face a fair amount of backlash and negative effects surrounding funding, but the door still exists.

Students around campus are discussing the possibility of a vaccine mandate and whether they believe it would be ethical to put one in place. Some students believe that public health should overrule everything else, while others believe they have the right to say no to a COVID-19 vaccination. Most students fall somewhere in between these two points.

When recording the responses of over 50 students across campus, this statement stood true. When asked if they believe a vaccine mandate will eventually be put in place at Drake University, roughly 65 percent of students believed the University would, but only in the case of dramatic Delta-variant spikes similar to the Thanksgiving surge of 2020. Along with this, nearly 90% of students believe COVID-19 is still enough of a threat to warrant a vaccine mandate on campus.

When discussing whether a COVID-19 vaccination mandate will be put in place for students across campus, a deeper question arises; is a vaccine mandate morally right?

The question that seemed to cause the most variety in responses from students was “Do you believe unvaccinated people’s health concerns about the vaccine are valid?” In response, students were split across three primary answers.

To start, roughly 30 percent of students did not believe health concerns regarding the relatively new COVID-19 vaccine were valid. One of these students, who requested anonymity, summed their perspective up clearly: “This is a private college. You are choosing to go here. I feel the college can and perhaps should mandate certain vaccines such as COVID, measles, and the flu shot depending on cases in the area.” This perspective seems to be shared by many other students who noted that living on-campus and attending Drake University is a choice, not a requirement.

On the other hand, roughly 24 percent of students believed their concerns were valid. One student, who has also requested anonymity, said “I feel like it violates the basic human right to delegate what does and doesn’t go into one’s body. It makes students choose between their education and their freedom of choice.” Several other students agreed with the idea that a vaccine mandate would violate the rights of students on campus, along with the idea that exemptions should be granted.

The most prominent response (roughly 47 percent) was that vaccine concerns were valid, but all students should get the vaccine regardless. One student said, “I think it is necessary for public safety. Unless one has valid medical or religious reasons why they cannot get a vaccine, I believe they should get it.” Most students on campus tend to fall into this group, believing that public health should be prioritized over personal preference.

No matter where students fall on this issue, all can agree that a vaccine mandate instituted on campus would lead to substantial backlash and conflicts among those who disagree. Only time will tell if Drake University students will face a vaccine mandate down the road.

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