Some incoming University of Washington students say they’ll feel safer on a campus where COVID-19 vaccinations are mandatory.
The university announced at the start of the month that it will require students attending all three of its campuses to be vaccinated against COVID-19. Several Washington universities, including Washington State University, Central Washington University, and other private institutions have made the same decision.
All students will need to validate their vaccination status before autumn quarter begins. What exactly that validation process will look like has yet to be announced.
“The formal process has not yet been finalized,” said Victor Balta, senior director for media relations at the university. “But students will be required to attest to whether they have been vaccinated, when and which vaccine they received.”
William Hong, a current Highline student who will be attending the UW in autumn, said he feels the university’s decision is the right one. He received his second dose of the Pfizer vaccine mid-May.
“They want to create a fully in-person experience, and I think fully vaccinating all the students that are admitted is the way to do that,” Hong said.
Another Highline and soon-to-be UW student, Sechae Park, said he feels the same way.
“I think it’s a smart decision, it’s going to get us closer to herd immunity,” he said. “I don’t feel it’s any different from requiring any other vaccine, it’s just to keep the community safer.”
Park also received his second dose of Pfizer in May. He said he understands that some are hesitant about getting vaccinated, but thinks it’s the right decision.
“Because it’s such a new kind of field and new type of vaccine, I feel like people are distrustful of it,” Park said. “But I feel like we should be trusting.”
One incoming UW student, who asked not to be named, said he hasn’t been so trusting of the vaccine. He has held off getting vaccinated so far.
“I wanted to see the development of the vaccine and whether there are flaws in it,” he said. “I believe that everyone should get vaccinated, but I am waiting for the development of the vaccine.”
Still, he too said that he agrees with the university’s decision and plans to get vaccinated over the summer.
“Essentially all the other colleges have already stated that they’re requiring it, so why wouldn’t UW do the same?” he said. “I mean, it’s fine. I just don’t like needles.”
Though vaccination will be mandatory, exemptions will be allowed on a limited basis. On its announcement web page, the university said it will grant exemptions for “medical reasons or for religious or philosophical objections.”
The specific process for submitting exemptions has not been announced.
“Everyone who is eligible and able to be vaccinated should, however we understand that some people may be hesitant for any number of reasons,” said university spokesperson Balta. “We are hopeful that as the safety and efficacy of the vaccine continues to be demonstrated, more people will overcome any hesitation.”
The students’ opinions of this decision were less favorable: Park said he doesn’t think anyone should be forced, but that permitting students to go unvaccinated for non-medical reasons would make him feel less safe.
“For me personally, I wouldn’t feel comfortable having them on campus,” Park said. “If they do decide to opt out, there should be restrictions on their access to campus, whether that be continuing on Zoom or remote learning.”
Hong shared a similar view on the exemptions.
“If there’s some really specific reason [for an exemption] that will actually make sense, then I get it,” he said. “But there’s, like, no reason, so I don’t agree with the decision.”
The most hesitant student too, despite having avoided vaccination thus far, said he thinks allowing religious and philosophical objections is a poor decision.
“I’m not the person to say since I’m not of their religion, so I can’t judge,” he said. “But it’s probably not the safest choice.”