A COVID-19 vaccine mandate for students, faculty and staff at all Kent State campuses will be phased in over the fall semester, according to an email sent by President Todd Diacon Friday.
“As the delta variant drives a rapid increase in COVID-19 cases across Ohio,” Diacon said, “we must act for the health and safety of our Kent State family and the Northeast Ohio communities in which our campuses are located.”
The mandate will be broken into three phases with separate deadlines through the fall semester. Vaccinations must be completed by Dec. 20. According to the email, exemptions will be considered for “medical and religious/personal reasons.”
Beginning Sept. 1, the university said it will expand testing to include sample testing of unvaccinated students living off campus along with unvaccinated employees. Previously, the university did not require testing of faculty or staff or any information about employee vaccination status.
Starting Nov. 1, all unvaccinated students in residence halls will be tested twice each week—all other unvaccinated students and employees will be tested once each week.
By Dec. 20, “all students, faculty and staff are required to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19.”
The email stated the mandate covers students and all employees who are not covered by a union, but that the university is “currently engaged in positive and productive talks with the leadership for our union faculty and staff with the intent to include them as well.” The email also noted booster shots may be required in the future.
The university’s decision follows the FDA’s approval of the Pfizer vaccine Monday and Ohio State University’s announcement of a vaccine mandate Tuesday that requires students, faculty and staff to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by Nov. 15.
Ohio State made its announcement just minutes after a Statehouse committee wrapped up testimony relating to the Republican-backed House Bill 248, which would prohibit employers from requiring workers to receive vaccinations. Legislators now say the bill is on hold as businesses and health care groups push back in an effort to kill it.
Ohio reported 5,395 new COVID cases and 182 more hospitalizations Thursday, the highest single-day count since January 28, when there were 5,432.
Prior to the university’s announcement, Morgan Porpora, a sophomore fashion merchandising major, said Kent State should implement a COVID-19 vaccine mandate.
“If the vaccine allows us to stay in the classroom, I think that it’s a great idea,” she said.
Being on campus allows her to participate in events and stay involved with others, including taking part in Greek life, she said.
“It is a very political thing, even though it shouldn’t be,” Porpora said. “For example, we are required to get vaccines to come to Kent State. When I was a freshman, and I planned on living on campus, I was required to get vaccinations for that. So what is the difference between those vaccinations being required and the COVID vaccine being required?”
Kent State already requires all students (with the exception of those born prior to January 1957) to submit documentation of measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccines. These immunizations are considered mandatory, including for international students.
“I’m not pushing people to do something they don’t want to do,” Porpora said. “I understand everybody has their doubts. Everybody is entitled to their own opinion — very valid. But when it comes down to it, we’re all here for the same experience, and if we’re missing out on that because of the choices of people, then it’s kind of not fair.”
Even though Will Gall, a junior construction management major, received the Pfizer vaccine, prior to the announcement he said he disagreed with the idea of the university requiring students, faculty and staff to be vaccinated.
“There’s still a lot to be known about it,” he said. “Short-term effects seem very good, but in the long-term, you may be developing cancers or some other long-term issues.”
According to the Associated Press, misconceptions relating to the COVID-19 vaccine causing cancer have been disproven by the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center.
The flu vaccine is not mandated for students, which Gall said is part of the reason he doesn’t feel a mandate for the COVID-19 vaccine is necessary.
“I got it almost as soon as I could get it, back in May,” Gall said. “I got it because my grandparents are old. I got that for them, not so [much] for myself. I was kind of against it at first.”
CDC data shows that in 2020, 2,761 COVID-19 related deaths occurred among 18-29 year olds, compared to 148 deaths from influenza. And while mortality rates vary with age, The World Health Organization states the raw crude mortality ratio for COVID-19 is between 3-4% while for seasonal influenza, mortality is usually well below 0.1%.
Students, faculty and staff are encouraged to register their vaccination status through Med+Proctor. Vaccinated students are eligible to win prizes through the university’s incentive program, which has been extended through Oct. 31, according to the press release.
Vaccines are available by appointment during the week at DeWeese Health Center. For other vaccine locations off campus, visit the Ohio vaccination portal.
Emma Andrus is a reporter. Contact her at [email protected]