After the Pfizer vaccine got full FDA approval, many universities switched to requiring vaccinations to enroll for in-person classes, with the University of Maine being one of them. Requiring vaccines won’t only diminish the possibility of a COVID-19 breakout on campus, but it shows that universities are willing to turn away profits from potential or current sponsors or students to protect the community.
NPR cited research from Annals of Internal Medicine that states, “high vaccination rates will be the single most powerful determinant of campus safety this fall.” The author goes on to say that campuses with a 90% vaccination rate can resume most pre-pandemic activities without risk of viral transmission. As a student, I was overjoyed to read this. It seems surreal to me that the possibility of returning to pre-pandemic campus life is finally an option – if everyone gets vaccinated. Students who are immunocompromised or are living with those who are more at-risk of contracting the virus can return to campus, clubs, and classes with ease and less worry. A full and safe return to campus is the most desired outcome, and we can achieve this by everyone on campus doing their part and getting vaccinated.
It bothers me when those who do not want to get vaccinated say that the University of Maine or any other school that mandates vaccination are forcing them to get vaccinated. This is mostly because, in America, the ability to attend college is an immense privilege. According to EducationData, 10.4% of American adults over 18 are college students. Just because UMaine is a public university does not mean classes are open to the general public. Despite the University of Maine having a 90.2% acceptance rate, the school’s refusal to enroll COVID-19 unvaccinated students for on-campus learning is akin to their other vaccine or GPA requirements for admittance.
Luckily for some, not every college is requiring vaccinations, for example public universities in Texas are not allowed to require vaccinations. This means that you are not being discriminated against if you aren’t vaccinated – you can attend a college – but do not insist yourself on campuses that value public and community safety in attempt to achieve pre-pandemic normalcy.
It was my freshman year at University of Maine when we were about to go home for spring break, until students and faculty got an email that told us we were not going to return to campus, and that classes would be held remotely due to the rising COVID-19 pandemic. I had to rush while packing up my dorm and my parents had to make arrangements to drive the six and a half hours up from Connecticut to collect both me and my things.
That was a year and a half ago. In that time I completed my freshman year sitting in my childhood bedroom in quarantine, and I completed my sophomore year that consisted of both hybrid (in-person and online) and fully online classes, stuck in a single dorm where non-residents weren’t allowed in. Zoom and Brightspace were both platforms I learned very quickly, but my festering resentment for both of them progressed at the same speed. I hated sitting in a Zoom call with my camera and microphone off, like all the other students, trying to convince myself that I was actually learning anything. This made me appreciate the small amount of in-class days I had.
For my junior and senior years, all I want is campus to be at least semi back to normal. The best way to accomplish this is requiring proof of COVID-19 vaccinations for students and faculty. This way, everyone on campus can feel safe enough to come onto campus to attend classes, club meetings, and other social events that made our sense of UMaine community so strong pre-pandemic.