On May 10, UO announced that it will require mandatory vaccines for students, faculty and staff who will be on campus this fall via its Instagram. The Instagram page, which averages two to five thousand likes per post, raked in a whopping ten thousand likes and one thousand comments. People expressed both joy and concern in the comments. Some feel that vaccines will keep students safe during in-person fall classes, while others expressed their dismay and think students should get to make their own decisions about the vaccine.
UO President Michael Schill said in an email announcement that “requiring vaccinations is critical for public health.” UO is not alone in requiring vaccines for the fall term. Many colleges around the country, including Oregon State University, Lewis & Clark College and Southern Oregon University, have ruled in favor of mandatory vaccines.
“I am not anywhere near getting vaccinated,” UO first-year Ainsley said.
Ainsley, who prefers to only use her first name, had a bad reaction to her first round of vaccines as a baby and hasn’t been vaccinated since then. The Centers for Disease Control does not recommend getting the COVID-19 vaccine if you’ve had an adverse reaction to vaccines in the past, since it contains the same base ingredients as most other vaccines. UO will not enforce vaccine requirements for those that receive medical, religious, philosophical and personal exemptions.
“I really want to get vaccinated, but I don’t want another bad reaction,” she said. “I don’t think it’s deadly if I get it. I just think it’s a few days in the hospital, which no one wants.”
She isn’t sure which vaccine gave her the initial reaction, so to play it safe, she’s steering clear of all the COVID-19 vaccines for now.
“As someone who can’t get vaccinated, I think it’s really important that people keep wearing masks if they can,” Ainsley said. “Just be selfless, I guess, and care more about those around you than yourself.”
Not being able to receive vaccines has not affected Ainsley’s life like this in the past. She considers herself fairly lucky and, despite never getting a flu shot, has only had the flu once.
Despite her allergies, Ainsley likes that UO is requiring vaccines for the fall.
“It’ll make me feel comfortable,” she said. “And, for other people that are maybe immunocompromised, knowing that others around us are vaccinated makes me feel ahead of the game.”
Ainsley knows that the vaccine isn’t the end-all for COVID-19, but thinks UO is taking a step in the right direction.
“I have to do a lot of medical paperwork on my end, having to explain my situation to the school because it’s such a unique circumstance,” Ainsley said. But other than the paperwork, her plans for next year have stayed the same. She will be living off campus in an apartment complex that enforces mask wearing.
UO sophomore Freya Rhodes has been fully vaccinated for over a month.
“I was really happy when I got the email,” she said. “I think it’s really important that we’re vaccinated for fall.”
Rhodes acknowledges that some of the pushback is people wanting the freedom to choose what goes in their bodies, but she said that vaccines have been required to go to school for a really long time.
“We didn’t kick and scream when we needed to get Measles, Mumps and Rubella [vaccines],” she said.
As a member of Kappa Delta, Rhodes is living in their chapter facilities next year. She said her chapter follows UO’s lead regarding vaccines and other COVID-19 requirements.
“I feel really good in knowing that people are going to have to get vaccinated before they live in,” she said.
Rhodes hasn’t heard any negative backlash about the vaccine within her friend group or sorority.
Students like Ainsley and Rhodes are excited about the fall term and feel that the COVID-19 vaccines will help them get their lives back to normal.