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The lot outside of Autzen stadium which will be used as a central location for vaccine distribution. University of Oregon begins to roll out vaccines to students and faculty beginning the week of April 19th. (Maddie Stellingwerf/Emerald)

This spring, president Michael Schill announced that the university would require a COVID-19 vaccination before returning to campus. The vaccination mandate allows for exemptions regarding medical, religious or philosophical reasons. On Aug. 20, the university broadened their mandate for all large events and activities — including, and most importantly, sports events. People ages 12 and up are required to show proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test.

On Aug. 17, Schill made a vaccination update for current professors and students. The School of Law reported 93.6% of the community made the Aug. 13 deadline — and, of those who met the deadline, 97.6% were fully vaccinated.

Just over half of UO students planning to return to campus in the fall have reported their status. Of the 52%, 96.4% are vaccinated. According to Schill’s announcement, 96% of faculty and staff claim to be vaccinated of the 69% of faculty and staff who reported.

The Daily Emerald conducted a survey on the vaccine mandate for students to return to campus in the fall. The survey did not include any questions on the new regulations regarding UO events.

The survey acquired sixty participants. 76.7% of participants were parents of current and rising UO students. 18.3% of participants were students.Of the student participants, 27.3% were seniors and 27.3% were juniors.

All participants agreed with the mandate. Many participants detailed their frustrations and skepticism of the vaccine exemptions. Vaccine exemptions are simple to acquire for domestic students. Parents and students are worried that yet another year of college will be compromised because of the unvaccinated community (excluding those with medical exemptions).

“Why even bother saying that the vaccine is required if you are allowing exemptions for any reason?” one participant wrote. “Attendance at UO is not a right, it is a privilege. If you don't want to get vaccinated go somewhere else or get an online degree.”  

“It's fine — both my Ducks are vaccinated. BUT they had better have a close to normal campus experience and be able to attend events. Enough with life on hold. The university needs to push back on the governor and give college kids the opportunities they deserve.” Another participant wrote.

Students are paying for an experience that they are not getting — or have not gotten in the past year and a half. The university will need to tighten up on vaccination exemptions. At the end of the day, the UO is a business trying to suck college kids dry for money. After almost two full school years robbed — needing to pay for a closed Student Rec Center, not being able to enter the library, and having worse grades due to insufficient digital learning competencies — if the school is even remotely online due to the unvaccinated population driving up numbers … sayonara.

COVID-19 is here to stay. A vaccination is the only way to keep the beast at bay and classes possible. The last academic year was one of the most unfulfilling and wasteful for me — especially for out-of-state and international students. Freshmen were sent by the truckload to quarantine in Barnhart, and the athletes competed in empty stadiums. Mandating the COVID-19 vaccine to all people who will be on campus next year, with  exemptions for medical and religious reasons, is the only way UO students will get the university experience they paid for. Exemptions for philosophical reasons defeats the purpose of a mandate.

With the latest FDA approval of the Pfizer vaccine, excuses for not receiving the vaccine due to personal anxieties about the vaccine should not count as philosophical reasoning. Before the approval, a sentiment I heard often was that ‘the vaccine was experimental and rushed — it would be stupid to put something not FDA approved in my body.’ 

The FDA has a long list of things not approved including but not limited to: vitamins and supplements, weight loss pills, baby formulas and color and food additives. Pfizer - a life saving (and economy saving) vaccine is not on that list. College students put much worse into their bodies than a Pfizer shot. The same guy trying to exempt the vaccine in the fall for “philosophical reasons”  most likely also uses illicit drugs at music festivals and house parties. 

However, I am no better. Of course when I heard about the vaccine I questioned the legitimacy; but then I thought about how I routinely eat Taco Bell and drink energy drinks that make my heart beat in ways it should not. There is no micro chip in the vaccine, and even if there was it’s  not like I don’t already carry around a personal tracker called my iPhone.

Exempting the vaccine for philosophical reasoning is vague and illegitimate. If a person wants to be exempt for non-medical or non-religious reasons, they should have to write a five paragraph MLA format essay with at least three credible sources and an annotated bibliography defending their exemption.