Students, administration discuss possibility of COVID-19 vaccination mandate

Photo of UC Berkeley Vaccination
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While the UC system does not currently require students, staff or faculty to get a COVID-19 vaccine, the possibility of a vaccine requirement is still up in the air. Some students have expressed concerns over the equity of such a mandate, worrying that a vaccine mandate will not be accessible for both out-of-state and international students.

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As COVID-19 vaccines become increasingly available, universities nationwide have announced a mandatory vaccination requirement for their students to return to in-person instruction in fall 2021, leading to questions about how UC Berkeley and the UC system at large will tackle this situation.

UC Berkeley University Health Services, or UHS, spokesperson Tami Cate said in an email campus is not currently issuing a mandate for vaccinations. UC Health Communications director Michael Crawford added in an email that the UC system does not currently require students, staff or faculty to get a COVID-19 vaccine.

A future mandate for vaccinations is still being deliberated by the UC system administration as fall 2021 recommendations and plans are in the works, according to Crawford. Cate added that campus hopes to relay new information regarding a vaccine mandate by mid-to-late April.

While the possibility of a vaccine requirement is still up in the air, it has stirred debate over the equity and accessibility of such a mandate.

Campus sophomore Fawziyah Laguide said in an email she supports a vaccine requirement.

“(A vaccine mandate) will allow us, students, more confidence in the University’s ability to prevent another outbreak,” Laguide said in the email. “As a way to ensure that everyone is able to come back to school safely, I believe that the University should provide vaccines to those who don’t have access to them.”

Laguide suggested that vaccine distribution could be a part of Golden Bear Orientation, a program for new students to get connected and introduced to campus resources.

On the other hand, some students worry that a vaccine mandate will not be accessible for out-of-state and international students alike.

“International students have arguably gotten the short end of the stick during this pandemic,” said campus freshman Tran Nguyen in an email. “Some countries are not predicted to get mass vaccine units until 2022. The cost for vaccines might not also be free in these countries. I believe that there is an underlying tone of classism within this requirement.”

Cate said in the email she could not comment on what enforcement of such a vaccine mandate would look like. Campus will be able to record and keep track of immunization information via the California Immunization Registry and documents uploaded to UHS.

Though vaccines are not required at the campus or university levels, both Crawford and Cate encouraged the community to get a vaccine when eligible.

“The COVID-19 vaccines in use have undergone thorough and detailed reviews for safety and effectiveness, and vaccination remains the most effective way to bring this pandemic to an end,” Crawford said in the email. “We remain vigilant in a fluid situation and will communicate any updates over the coming weeks.”

Contact Julie Madsen at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @Julie_Madsen_.