COVID on campus: No vaccine mandate for UM System
By: Zach Bayly, Ajay Rana, Charlie Thorn & Abie Groes
Despite rising concerns about the COVID delta variant surging throughout the nation, students taking in-person classes this fall within the UM System are not required to submit proof of vaccination.
The University of Missouri Board of Curators voted against coronavirus vaccine mandates on all four UM System campuses in early September, while more than 60 percent of Missouri residents between the ages of 18-24 remain unvaccinated, according to the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services.
With above 2,000 new cases in Missouri every day, an informal survey indicated that there is strong support for students to be fully vaccinated: 44 of the 47 respondents, including students, faculty and staff, had received the requisite shot(s).
Although encouraging, these results are not consistent with national reports that indicate only 52 percent of US citizens are vaccinated, compared to 32 percent worldwide. In majority-world countries, many people are unvaccinated due to limited access and state violence. In the US, free vaccines have been available for the last five months in 80,000 locations ranging from stadiums to supermarkets. Still, President Joe Biden declared last Friday that America remains in “a pandemic of the unvaccinated...we still have nearly 80 million who have failed to get the shot.”
Only three of 47 respondents on-campus said they were unvaccinated, and all three declined to comment on their decision. However, about 90 percent of students said they received either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine, both of which require two shots three to four weeks apart. According to the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services, a significant number of people between the ages of 18 and 24 get the first shot, but not the second. Because the survey distributed on-campus does not have more questions about incomplete vaccinations, respondents who answered Pfizer or Moderna could have assumed one shot was enough.
Misconceptions like these could be more aptly confronted through mandating vaccination records, and UMSL is already getting pushback from influential campus stakeholders.
"There has been talk of having all of the staff show vaccination or proof of negative COVID test.”
Dorian Hall, Director of Millenium Student Center, Student Involvement, and Event Services, says some of their most recent challenges involve high-profile private clients using campus facilities for events. “There’s interest to require vaccinations or proof of negative COVID tests within 72 hours in order to attend the event, and then also having all of the staff show vaccination or proof of negative COVID test.”
As Hall notes, complying with these requests from private clients would not be consistent with the board of curators’ vote earlier this month. “That actually presents some legal challenges...I do see it potentially spilling into other parts of campus,” he says.
When asked if he’d had open discussions with staff who are not vaccinated, Hall said most only shared if they were vaccinated. “One of the things we have to also be respectful of is anyone’s personal business, their personal rights, so I’m not going to ask someone if they’ve been vaccinated, but if they want to share that freely I’m certainly thankful for the information.”