Last April, as Loyola students and faculty were just adapting to online classes, the idea of an effective COVID-19 vaccine seemed almost unthinkable.
But now, thanks to the hard work of scientists, there are three vaccines circulating throughout the U.S. With this breakthrough, some universities, including Loyola, are hoping to return to a more normal school routine in the fall.
However, before bringing campus back to life, the university needs to do everything in its power to ensure the Loyola community is safe and healthy — including requiring students to get the COVID-19 vaccine.
This vaccine requirement isn’t totally new. Loyola students enrolled in seven or more credits are already required by the state of Illinois to provide proof of certain immunizations such as measles, mumps and meningitis, according to Loyola’s Wellness Center. If students fail to fulfill immunization requirements, they risk paying a fee or being barred from campus move-in or class registration. We think students should face these penalties if they don’t get the COVID-19 vaccine by fall.
Loyola is encouraging community members to get vaccinated when they become eligible COVID-19 vaccine.
“Getting the vaccine is the biggest and brightest light we’ve had in this very dark COVID-19 tunnel; whenever you are able, please get the vaccine,” Loyola’s website reads.
However, the university hasn’t yet announced whether the shots will be a requirement in the fall.
“No one today, not even health care providers, are requiring the vaccine while it is still under emergency use authorization,” Loyola’s website currently states. “Loyola has a health care advisory working group that is studying whether the University will require the vaccine for all or some of our campus community at some point in the future. It is important to note that Loyola does require proof of series of some vaccinations for our students.”
Other schools, such as Rutgers University, Brown University, Northeastern University and Cornell have taken the lead, announcing students must be vaccinated by the start of the fall term, according to the Associated Press (AP). Nearby Catholic school Notre Dame is also following suit. Others, according to the AP, are letting students choose or believe they can’t legally make this sort of vaccine requirement.
While our editorial board’s members are far from health experts, we feel hopeful about the possibility of the Loyola community getting vaccinated by the new school year. Loyola itself isn’t administering vaccines, but the Illinois Department of Public Health cites over 7.3 million doses have been given out to the state’s population of about 12.7 million as of April 13, with a rolling 7-day administration average of 132,979 per day.
The department also notes about a fifth of Chicago residents have been fully vaccinated. And in an exciting development, Illinois residents ages 16 and up — which would include many Loyola students — are now eligible to get the shot.
Obviously, students who can’t receive the vaccine for certain reasons should be exempt from any university requirement. But that only highlights how important it is for the rest of the Loyola community to get vaccinated to ensure the whole student body stays COVID-free.
Not only would a vaccine requirement embody Loyola’s Jesuit value of cura personalis — or care for the whole person, including ourselves and others — but it would show the university’s commitment to protecting it’s extended community in Rogers Park.
Like we wrote back when Loyola students rushed Sheridan Road after the Ramblers won their second game in March Madness, it is incumbent upon us as students and our university to be responsible and empathetic to our neighbors in one of the city’s most diverse neighborhoods.
Some may be initially hesitant to get the vaccine. A March 12 report released by The Delphi Group at Carnegie Mellon University pulled responses from 1.9 million across the country, with 23 percent of respondents expressing vaccine-hesitancy oftentimes due to concerns about side effects. But most of these side effects only last a short time.
While it’s true the vaccines can lead to side effects such as arm pain, headache and tiredness, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) notes these effects are temporary and indicators of the body building protection against the virus.
Vaccines hold the key to a much faster return to a more normal world. A short-term bout of symptoms is a small price to pay given the promising studies indicating the effectiveness of vaccines in fighting COVID-19. The CDC states the COVID-19 vaccines offered in the United States currently are both safe and effective, with large-scale trials showing they prevented most people from contracting the virus.
Now that the doors are open for anyone over the age of 16 in Illinois, and will be soon (on April 19) for that same group in Chicago, students have the opportunity to start searching for appointments. Loyola’s website says people who live or work in Chicago can register through Zocdoc. It also recommends the Chicago Department of Public Health’s COVID Coach app which has information on testing and vaccination. Additional information and other resources can be found here.
So with these widespread opportunities for young people to be inoculated, it’s now fair for the university to begin to require the vaccine for the fall. It’s important to keep our community safe and strong against the spread of COVID-19.