OPINION: UNCW must require students and staff to receive COVID-19 vaccine to attend in-person classes


Photo by Hakan Nural on Unsplash

Covid-19 vaccine stock photo.

Emma Sheeran, Opinion Editor

Scientists from several different pharmaceutical companies have been scrambling to develop a safe and effective vaccine against COVID-19. Now that vaccines are ready for distribution, many people are hesitant or refusing to receive it.

The nation is practically split in two on the matter. According to a poll done in November, only 60% of people stated they would get the vaccine.

This is a startling statistic considering the current death toll of the COVID-19 virus. Over 1.8 million people have died worldwide from the virus.

How can we end a pandemic if people aren’t willing to receive a vaccine for it?

The education industry has taken a major hit since the onset of the pandemic. Schools and universities nationwide have shut down and resorted to virtual classes in order to keep their students and staff safe.

Now that the COVID-19 vaccines are ready, universities have a major decision to make. Do they require that students and staff receive the vaccine before attending in-person classes?

Campuses are breeding grounds for bacteria, viruses and a host of other illnesses. With communal dorms, cafeterias and classrooms, students and staff are exposed to a myriad of possible contagions.

So, should UNCW require students and staff to receive the COVID-19 vaccine prior to attending in-person classes? Absolutely.

As of fall 2020, the total enrollment is 17,915. The student body is simply too large to not enforce a vaccine requirement.

Vaccinating everyone all at once is not a practical goal. In the meantime, the university can offer instructional methods for those with the vaccine and for those without it.

UNCW should offer two formats, virtual or in-person instruction. Students and staff who choose in-person instruction must show proof of COVID-19 vaccination. Those without the vaccine may only attend virtual courses.

Nobody wants to be a “guinea pig” for a new medicine, treatment or vaccine. However, if students want to return to campus, a vaccine is necessary to keep everyone safe and healthy. It would be irresponsible of UNCW to allow students back on campus without the vaccine when it becomes readily available to the general public.

There is no way to completely prohibit unvaccinated students from being on campus. However, by restricting them from attending in-person classes the university is protecting its students, staff and faculty the best they can.

In order to make this regulation equitable for everyone, UNCW should provide vaccines to students, staff and faculty. The vaccines should be affordable so they are available to everyone despite one’s economic situation.

Assuming the change would go into effect fall 2021, the university should host a drive-up vaccination clinic on campus, similar to how they provided COVID-19 virus testing in 2020. The vaccination clinic would occur in the summer, prior to the fall semester. Hosting this during the summer would allow more students to receive the vaccine in time for classes to start.

UNCW must require a COVID-19 vaccine in order to attend in-person classes. Without this rule, the university would be compromising the health and safety of its student body, faculty, staff and the surrounding Wilmington community.