Thousands of students at Connecticut’s colleges and universities were forced to learn remotely due to the COVID-19 pandemic. With the arrival of vaccines, many local colleges hope to return to in-person learning. If returning students elect not to get vaccinated, however, schools risk a return of serious outbreaks among students, staff, and community members. To prevent these outbreaks, some local universities — including Yale University and Wesleyan University — have joined a growing number of colleges nationwide in announcing mandatory vaccination. Despite the enormous potential of such requirements to ensure campus safety, many other local institutions have said they will not require vaccination. All Connecticut colleges and universities should require COVID-19 vaccination for in-person learners; such requirements are safe, effective, and legal. As Connecticut university students ourselves, we yearn for a return to in-person learning. However, we feel strongly that mandatory vaccination is needed to return safely, and that universities have a moral obligation to protect their local communities.
The three COVID-19 vaccines currently authorized for use in the United States are safe. More than 210 million shots have been administered, under what the CDC describes as “the most intense safety monitoring in U.S. history.” While mRNA vaccines are new to the public, scientists have been researching and testing mRNA vaccine technology for decades. The COVID-19 vaccines have met the rigorous safety, quality, and efficacy standards to be granted an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA). These vaccines also continue to be scrutinized routinely; in fact, the recent J&J “pause” is an example of our monitoring system working well. After six reports of rare blood clots out of 6.8 million doses (less than the risk of being struck by lightning), the FDA paused administration to review the data.