Apr 30, 2021 | NEWS | By Esteban Candelaria, Lorea Zabaleta, and Cameron Howell | Photo by Bibi Powers and Isaac Yee of the Colorado College vaccination clinic on April 17, 2021
This report originally appeared in the CC COVID-19 Reporting Project, a twice-weekly newsletter partnered with The Catalyst that covers the pandemic’s effect on higher education. For more COVID updates delivered straight to your inbox by CC student-journalists, be sure to subscribe to the newsletter here.
💉No vaccines, no service, with some exemptions
On Monday, Colorado College leadership announced that students, faculty, and staff planning to live, learn, and work on campus next year will be required to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
The announcement, which came as an update to previous statements college leadership made claiming that vaccines would be “strongly encouraged,” said that members of the CC community planning to return in the fall would be required to show proof of their vaccination by Aug. 1 in order to be eligible to be on campus.
With the requirement, the college joined a growing list of institutions of higher education, like Georgetown University and Rutgers University, across the U.S. that are requiring their students to be vaccinated against COVID-19 for the coming academic year.
So what changed?
Monday’s announcement came after conversations between college leadership and the Scientific Advisory Group (SAG) that took place over several weeks.
Andrea Bruder, chair of the SAG, said that she felt the requirement was important for mitigating the academic disruptions small-scale outbreaks, quarantines, and isolations caused for the CC community on or near campus.
“I think it’s really essential to bringing us back together on campus,” Bruder told The CC COVID-19 Reporting Project. “In the absence of high vaccination rates, we would likely have outbreaks.”
CC’s Vice Provost Pedro de Araujo told The CC COVID-19 Reporting Project that he thinks the requirement is “the right decision” and the college’s “best chance” to go back to what it does best, which de Araujo said is a residential liberal arts experience.
“I think that we would get opposition regardless”
Given the high rates of vaccine hesitancy across the country, de Araujo said the college has taken into consideration the possibility that some in the CC community will oppose the requirement to be vaccinated against COVID-19.
For individuals that oppose the college’s vaccination requirement, some exemptions will be made for medical, religious, and personal reasons.
More details on how those exemptions would be processed and decided on, de Araujo said, will be released soon.
But despite potential reservations about the requirement, de Araujo said there likely would have also been pushback from the CC community if the college did not require that those on campus be fully vaccinated.
“I think that we would get opposition regardless,” de Araujo said. “That requirement was based on science, and that’s what we’re holding, and if that creates a pushback, then we’re going to have to deal with that.”
In order to accommodate those that may not have access to vaccines, CC’s COVID-19 Emergency Manager Maggie Santos ’86 said the college and its health partners plan to continue to host on-campus vaccination clinics for those that need it in addition to the upcoming clinic on May 8.
“Those students who want to have their first vaccine on [May 8] can come get their first vaccine, and then we’ll set up another vaccination clinic in three weeks, and then we’ll set it up for another three weeks,” Santos told The CC COVID-19 Reporting Project. “As long as people are interested in vaccines, we will continue to provide it for them.”
In order to avoid making the process “more complicated” for international students, Bruder said the SAG recommended to college leadership that CC accept all international vaccines that have gone through an approval process.
Bruder added that the SAG will also be keeping an eye on new regulations or rules regarding international traffic or travel this summer and beyond.
Ultimately, Santos said the college will help students, faculty, and staff who want to be vaccinated against COVID-19 but are unable to receive those shots before returning to campus to do so.
Hoping for a high rate of vaccinations
With the requirement that students, faculty, and staff must be vaccinated to be on campus, CC leaders and the SAG said they were hoping to reach a high vaccination rate among the college’s community, which they said will help bring the college back to normal — or as close to normal as possible.
Specifically, Bruder said she was hoping for a vaccination rate among the CC community “in the 90% range.”
For other vaccines, like the meningococcal vaccine, Bruder said CC has typically had high rates of vaccination, so she is “quite optimistic” the vaccination rate against COVID-19 will be high among the community as well.
“I think that would be our only chance to actually have us going back to normal, is if we can actually get a rate of vaccination that is very high,” de Araujo said. “And I think that requiring the vaccine creates that layer that’s going to push us to that threshold.”
Bruder said the fall semester will be much less disrupted with high vaccination rates and that COVID is transitioning from being a public health issue to “a personal medical issue” like other diseases such as measles.
“It’s in fact a lot easier to plan for the fall semester if we can assume that vaccination rates are high. In that case, instruction can happen in person, by default,” Bruder said. “Less social distancing might be needed, and fewer people will need to quarantine following exposures, because there will be a lot fewer exposures, a lot fewer infections. And then if people are vaccinated, eventually they will also not have quarantine anymore.”
Another perk of the steadily increasing vaccination rates, and a highly vaccinated community in the fall, is that the college will be able to welcome visitors back to campus again, Bruder said.
Some members of the CC community think the benefits of the vaccine requirement will reach beyond campus.
Susan MacGrath, a CC parent, told The CC COVID-19 Reporting Project that she “absolutely” feels safer sending her child back to in-person learning with the requirement in place, and that she thinks it will make everyone safer.
“I think it’s a good idea because it’s about protecting the community,” MacGrath said. “The sooner [the] better, not just for CC, but for the state, for the country, and actually on a global perspective as well, because it’s going to take all of us.”
About the CC COVID-19 Reporting Project
The CC COVID-19 Reporting Project is created by Colorado College student journalists Esteban Candelaria, Lorea Zabaleta, and Cameron Howell in partnership with The Catalyst, Colorado College’s student newspaper. Work by Phoebe Lostroh, Associate Professor of Molecular Biology at CC and National Science Foundation Program Director in Genetic Mechanisms, Molecular and Cellular Biosciences, will appear every Monday.
The project seeks to provide frequent updates about CC and other higher education institutions during the pandemic by providing original reporting, analysis, interviews with campus leaders, and context about what state and national headlines mean for the CC community.