Northern Nevadans describe vaccination requirement beliefs upon UNR campus entrance

The fall 2021 semester has drastically changed due to vaccine rollout between now and August

Written by Sydney Fischer

Thousands of individuals have been impacted by public safety anxieties surrounding the ongoing pandemic, COVID-19. This has been a major issue for many Nevada residents as well as Americans, while other individuals have faced fears of having to receive a vaccine.

Brain Sandavol, the President at the University of Nevada, Reno, said, “We’ve been heartened by the public health gains Nevada has seen with the advent of vaccines. Because of these positive trends, I want you to know that we’re actively planning and preparing on being back for the fall semester — with more in-person academics and events, while remaining vigilant in all critical prevention efforts and continuing to prioritize the health and well-being of the University community”.

The president has also encouraged students to get their COVID-19 vaccines through the Student Health Center on campus or through other locations in Northern Nevada. The Student Health Center has been distributing vaccines for weeks now along with other locations in Reno.

“Personally, I would like people to be vaccinated”, Claudia Cruz, Director of Internships and Experiential Learning said. “I think that it’s important generally for the health of the entire community. I understand hesitancy when it comes to ‘I might have medical issues’, and ‘I’m worried about what the vaccine might do to me.’ Hesitancy for other reasons I’m skeptical about, because the science has now proven the vaccines are working.”

Claudia says she was hesitant in the beginning about the COVID-19 vaccine. However, friends who are doctors and reporters and the science behind the vaccine helped convince her otherwise.

According to the Las Vegas Review-Journal, Nevadans are becoming more accepting of receiving a COVID-19 vaccine. However, almost 30% of Nevadans don’t want to receive this vaccine. While this percentage is good for the Herd immunity of Nevadans, or the number of residents needed to stop the spread of COVID-19, this may create issues for UNR students and faculty with differing opinions.

With these differing opinions, there are differing beliefs of whether college campuses should require members to be vaccinated upon entering campus. Andrew Murfett, an editor at LinkedIn News, ran a poll asking individuals their thoughts on if students should be vaccinated upon entering campus in the fall 2021 semester. In this poll, 49% of people said yes, 46% of people said no, and 5% of individuals said it depends.

Princeton University said that they, “Will require all undergraduate and graduate students enrolled or otherwise present on campus during the 2021–22 academic year to receive, and to provide proof of having received, a COVID-19 vaccine authorized by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). As soon as students are vaccinated, they must upload their COVID-19 vaccine record into the myUHS portal.”

The Star Tribune says other universities are requiring individuals to come to campus vaccinated, such as Rutgers, Brown, Cornell, and Northeastern.

“I think anyone who would like their classes to be in person should be required to show proof of vaccination,” William Grove, a student at UNR said. “It could be implemented within the enrollment process to show proof of vaccination before classes even begin.”

As students continue to address this issue from a personal perspective, they reflect on how it has impacted them in previous months. This reflection leads to concerns about the public safety of students on campus as the summer and fall semesters begin transitioning to turn to in-person courses.

“I know that Rutgers University, which is the state school in New Jersey, has already announced that they will be requiring this for the fall”, Heather Wertenbaker, student and worker at UNR said. “I feel that this is the safest and the best way to fully resume in-person learning”.

Heather also says that she believes previous COVID-19 guidelines won’t be as beneficial if many individuals aren’t willing to get vaccinated. She thinks social distancing and closure of public places are more beneficial for the time being.

“Some colleges are leaving the decision to students, and others believe they can’t legally require vaccinations,” The Star Tribune said. “At Virginia Tech, officials determined that they can’t because the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has only allowed the emergency use of the vaccines and hasn’t given them its full approval.”

Other universities question whether they can implement this policy as the COVID-19 vaccine is for emergency use under the Food and Drug Administration. This will raise many legal questions as to whether the COVID-19 vaccine could be required like other vaccines are required upon campus entrance.

“I will say that state institutions can require employees and students to have to vaccinate or fulfill certain requirements before they are allowed to enroll, enter, or work”, Claudia said. “I think the University is in their right to ask, but I don’t know if they will because of just the community we’re in and what I’ve seen. The uproar to masks, to social distancing, to stay home. I think it’s a slippery slope, but the university can mandate”.

Challenges may also continue to rise as universities decide whether they should or shouldn’t require vaccination proof upon campus entrance at UNR and other universities. Concerns over fake or forged vaccination cards have begun to be raised, specifically with students who do not want to get a COVID-19 vaccine.

“If the students were vaccinated in the State of Nevada, that information still exists,” Claudia says. “It might be a matter of if you are a student and you’re trying to enroll in the fall after the University mandates it, the University might send out a form saying do you give us permission to ask the health district… to release this document. The only way for the university to know who’s been adequately vaccinated is for the students or the individuals like myself to agree to allow the health districts release that information”.

University and government officials will have to continue addressing both of these challenges regarding the COVID-19 vaccine. UNR and other college campuses will have to debate whether they consider the safety of their general population or the enrollment of unvaccinated students as a higher priority.

“I think what’s going to be interesting as well, maybe… the universities that do mandate it; if people do not want to attend those universities, because now there’s a mandate”, Claudia said. “It could be that if UNR were to mandate it, someone will say ‘well I revoke my acceptance, and I’m not going to go.’”

“Since the campus is open to the public, this proof just to be on campus would be very difficult to implement and fairly unrealistic,” William said.

“I honestly doubt that UNR will end up requiring individuals to be vaccinated in order to be on campus for the fall semester.” Heather said. “Unfortunately, in Reno, I think that a lot of people would be angered by a requirement to be vaccinated”.

While these issues are addressed during the summer and fall semesters, students are still currently being required to maintain social distance and wear face masks at UNR. Until further decisions are made, students will need to keep six feet apart from one another until May 1 and will have a mix of remote and in-person courses throughout the summer until the fall semester.

https://thisisreno.com/2021/03/unr-planning-for-return-to-in-person-classes-in-the-fall/

https://www.reviewjournal.com/local/local-nevada/nevadans-becoming-more-accepting-of-covid-19-vaccine-poll-finds-2295174/

https://www.linkedin.com/news/story/more-colleges-to-require-vaccines-5043196/?fbclid=IwAR0uHP0FkbdM1NPbrFXr2TlZUlFzFDuvii9vcn9MubnMU-0T0SxwkLmXQos

https://www.princeton.edu/news/2021/04/20/university-will-require-all-undergraduate-and-graduate-students-receive-covid-19?fbclid=IwAR1XHYsJvThWVHit_sAEL_X-mJgOas3jVZKcHf3dNwUY90t9FO24cKh6-H8

https://m.startribune.com/us-colleges-divided-over-requiring-student-vaccinations/600044931/?clmob=y&c=n

William Grove: Phone number: (702) 497–5479, Email: billygrove00@gmail.com

Heather Wertenbaker: Phone number: 1 (609) 422–6643, Email: hwertenbaker@nevada.unr.edu

Claudia Cruz: Phone number: (775) 784–4434, Email: claudiacruz@unr.edu

22 April, 2021. Quotes have been edited for clarity and brevity.

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Sydney Fischer

Junior at the University of Nevada, Reno majoring in political science and journalism.