Vaccination should be encouraged, not required

Graph+of+American%27s+willingness+to+receive+the+COVID+vaccine

Graph of American’s willingness to receive the COVID vaccine

Nicholas Melnichenko, News Editor

As more people become eligible for Covid-19 vaccinations, schools, colleges, universities, and public school systems are looking at their role in protecting students and faculty. Throughout the country, colleges and universities are divided on whether they should require students to get vaccinated. While private institutions are within their rights to require students to be vaccinated, public schools should wait to do the same until we fully understand the long term impact of the vaccine on all populations. Vaccinations should continue to be highly recommended but not mandatory.

A number of private universities have said they will require students to get the vaccine, but no public schools or universities have made it a requirement. While college students are required to get a number of vaccinations before coming on to campus, the COVID-19 vaccines are novel because it is still unclear what the long term effects are and how effectively they will prevent the spread of the disease. 

Jake Watkins, a sophomore at Weston High Schools agrees that “Students should be encouraged to get vaccinated, but not required to until we know more about the vaccination process and its effects.” At most, public institutions should encourage students who are healthy to consider getting vaccinated. 

Increased awareness of  the benefits of the vaccine versus the risks associated with not being vaccinated could allow for a greater willingness amongst the population to get vaccinated. In March of 2021, the number of people willing to be vaccinated had risen from 65% in July of 2020 to 74% and the number of people who do not want the vaccine had dropped from 35% to 26% (Gallup). According to the New York Times 8% of Massachusetts residents under the age of 19 have been vaccinated and while this number may be low, it’s the highest rate for that age group in the country. There are differences between different demographic groups in terms of willingness to get the vaccine. For example, according to the same Gallup poll from 2021, 94% of Democrats said they would be willing to receive the vaccine versus the 54% of Republicans who said they would not be willing to receive the vaccine. 

In general, college graduates and those with higher income levels are more likely to be willing to receive the vaccine. Since March, 4% more people in urban areas are being vaccinated than people in rural areas. People in rural America are 11% more likely to say they will not get a covid vaccine. The reasons are a combination of hesitancy, access, and messaging from healthcare providers. Currently, 29% of parents say they are willing to have their children ages 12 -15 vaccinated as soon as possible (CNN). Public health officials, doctors and schools should be working to educate people about the safety of vaccinations. Once people understand how the vaccine works, they may be more willing to get vaccinated and get their children vaccinated.

When thinking about requiring students to get vaccinated, it is important to consider the different identities students hold that would make them more or less likely to want to receive the vaccine. Although the general population of students might be required to get vaccinated in the future, it is probable that a minority would be exempt from getting vaccinated due to religious reasons. One student also recognized that, “nothing is 100% and there are people with real health issues that cannot get vaccinated” but hopefully enough people in school communities will be able and willing to get vaccinated so that we’re all more protected without schools having to put a mandate in place.

Provided that enough students obtain the vaccine voluntarily, instances of illness, death, and missed classes would be reduced. If students and parents are educated on the vaccine, they may be more willing to receive the vaccine without feeling forced to get it. It would allow for things to go back to normal and for students to have a regular school experience. Additionally, many students would benefit mentally from having more people vaccinated because it would take off a lot of the stress of staying safe. Furthermore, it is easier for schools to plan knowing that there will be fewer instances of Covid-19 and it will alleviate some of the problems schools face when planning events or activities ahead of time. Although it is unclear if public schools can require the vaccine, Watkins does think it will help ease some anxieties, “I will definitely feel safer at school knowing that we have herd immunity. Vaccines don’t just keep you from contracting the virus; they keep others safe from asymptomatic carriers.”

Providing vaccine education to parents and students at public and private institutions would offer many benefits from both an academic and mental health perspective. It seems likely that as time passes more people will get the vaccine. This sort of education and changes in behavior would be more beneficial than a mandatory vaccination.