May 12, 2023 | NEWS | By Marynn Krull, Managing Editor & Michael Braithwaite, Co Editor-In-Chief
In a statement late Thursday afternoon, Colorado College announced it is removing its COVID-19 vaccine requirement for incoming students in response to the U.S. federal government ending the COVID-19 Pandemic public health emergency. According to the statement, the college lifted its requirement for incoming staff and faculty in April 2023.
This announcement comes a little over two years after the college became the first higher education institution in Colorado to require the COVID-19 vaccination for students, staff, and faculty. The decision to remove the requirement, the statement says, is following with national trends and other El Paso County higher education institutions. However, some students and staff say the decision may have come too soon.
“I am disappointed to hear that CC has decided to join the national ableist, ageist, and neoliberal trend of making vaccination an individual choice rather than an act of collective care and in doing so abandoning those members of our community who are immunocompromised, elderly, and at greater risk of both infection and long-term debilitation by the COVID-19 virus,” wrote feminist and gender studies Professor Nadia Guessous in an email Thursday evening.
Guessous also noted that many immunocompromised individuals are concentrated in the Global South and are marginalized due to many factors such as race, ethnicity, class, gender, sexuality, citizenship status, and more in the United States.
Giorgio Gioele Sirito ’26 says it’s the duty of institutions like Colorado College to create space that is safe for everyone, but Sirito isn’t surprised by the decision.
“I felt pretty safe because of my privilege because I’m a young person, I’m healthy, I already had three shots of vaccine before I came here.” said Sirito. “But I haven’t felt like this was a safe space at all for people that may have not had the chance to vaccinate because of medical reasons.
According to the Mayo Clinic, herd immunity can only be achieved “when enough people in the population have recovered from a disease and have developed protective antibodies against future infection.” Vaccination allows communities to protect those who can’t be vaccinated without causing illness or complication.
Geneva Brown, the on-call research services librarian at Tutt Library, also disagreed with the announcement, comparing it to if the college had decided to drop the measles vaccine requirement. Having everyone vaccinated against it “is just safer for everyone overall in the long-term,” Brown said.
Freshman Rhys Jenkins says, “I think it’s important to keep in mind that even though the pandemic on paper is officially over, public health is an ongoing issue, and we need to be aware of vulnerable populations [in] our close-knit community.”
Jenkins acknowledged the barriers to vaccine access for incoming freshmen, noting that CC can do a better job helping students with socioeconomic barriers to mandatory healthcare services like vaccinations. Still, Jenkins says, “I feel like people should be getting vaccinated and people should be encouraged and required while we’re just barely out of the crisis.” Jenkins would like to see CC continue to hold and advertise pop-up vaccination clinics on campus.
One student told The Catalyst that they had no opinion on the decision but declined to go on the record with that statement.
The state of Colorado repealed its vaccination requirements for employees in August 2022. University of Colorado, Colorado Springs announced on May 3 that it would also end its vaccine requirements for students, staff, and faculty on May 15. Pike’s Peak State never required any vaccinations, but held pop-up clinics on campus, according to a spokesperson who talked to The Gazette.
“We asked the director of the Wellness Resource Center to meet with El Paso County health to see what would be the best practices for us,” said Vice President and Dean of the College Pedro de Araujo on Thursday afternoon. According to de Araujo, the college decided to forgo the mandate after El Paso County recommended that there was no reason to continue upholding it.
“We’re going to continue to provide testing,” said de Araujo.
After requiring masks on campus since the beginning of the Pandemic, the college removed its campus-wide masking requirement on March 1, 2022. However, in September 2022, the college saw a rise in positive cases on campus drastic enough to strongly recommend that all members of the community wear a mask in indoor spaces around campus, according to this statement from then Senior Director of Student Health and Wellbeing Heather Horton.
“Even though maybe the emergency is not as bad as two years ago, this disease can still affect the everyday lives of some people,” Sirito said.
To Guessous, the possible decrease in severity doesn’t outweigh the ongoing risk to vulnerable communities due to COVID-19 exposure, and the removal of the vaccine requirement “continues to raise questions about the college’s ability to bring an intersectional and transnational understanding to its anti-racism commitment.”