Private colleges should be leaders when it comes to requiring COVID-19 vaccines

Doses of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine. (Brad Horrigan/The Hartford Courant/TNS)
  • York College will require universal masking indoors for the fall semester.
  • The policy will remain in place until the campus population reaches a 70% vaccination rate.
  • York College is not requiring its student population to be vaccinated.

York College will require universal masking indoors for the fall semester until its campus population reaches a 70% COVID-19 vaccination rate.

York College students will also be required to submit proof that they were vaccinated before returning to campus. Unvaccinated students must provide a negative COVID-19 test dated no more than three days before their return to campus. Students who are not fully vaccinated will also be required to participate in random surveillance testing during the school year.

York College to require universal masking indoors, Penn State's mask policy is still up for debate

Given the latest COVID-19 surge caused by the emergence of the Delta variant, those are all wise moves, but they don’t go quite far enough.

We believe it’s time for the school to join the long list of colleges nationwide, mostly private, that are requiring their students to have a COVID-19 vaccine to attend in-person classes. If students refuse vaccination because of justified medical or religious exemptions, they should be required to submit to frequent scheduled asymptomatic testing, not just random testing.

In Pennsylvania, more than three dozen colleges have already made the decision to require vaccines for their students, including other regional private colleges such as Gettysburg, Franklin & Marshall and Dickinson.

Young people think they’re invincible: There’s no doubt that young people between the ages of 18 and 22 often feel invincible. As a result, there’s a natural inclination among folks in that age group to feel that they don’t need the vaccine.

There’s also little doubt that young people, generally, have been able to better handle COVID-19 symptoms than older adults. That has started to change, however, as the delta variant becomes more predominant. Young people are now at more risk than ever before.

That’s one big reason why York College should require their students to get the vaccine to attend school this fall. Another is that the older staff members could be at serious risk if many of the students are unvaccinated. Because of that, a similar vaccine requirement should exist for school employees.

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A privilege, not a right: Attending and working for a private college is not a right, it’s a privilege. As a result, the school, like any private organization, should be allowed to set policies that its students and employees must follow.

Most colleges already require on-campus students to be vaccinated against viral diseases such as measles, mumps and rubella. Government agencies have suggested that schools may similarly require the new COVID-19 shot.

Others, of course, disagree, arguing that inoculation can't be made mandatory while the vaccines are still categorized as "emergency use only."

Public colleges: For public colleges, the decision becomes more difficult, since those schools are largely supported by taxpayer dollars. Denying qualified students access to the school because the students aren’t vaccinated becomes a more problematic legal issue.

In response to the COVID surge, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently issued new guidance recommending that all individuals, regardless of vaccination status, wear masks indoors at K-12 schools.

Colleges should be no different.

It’s long past time to take this pandemic seriously. Our institutions of higher learning should be leaders in the vaccination endeavor.

Simply encouraging students to get vaccinated is no longer enough.