Can Colleges Require Vaccinations?

Covid vaccine bottles

By: J. S.

Some colleges in the United States are issuing a new requirement for fall semester – incoming and returning students are seeing emails and messages stating that Covid-19 vaccinations will be required to begin or continue on-campus learning at their schools.

What options do students have to attend the college they are paying for and have worked hard to get into, without consenting to take this shot that is still in the experimental phase?

Let us start the discussion with an obvious caveat. This is not about being an “anti-vaxxer.” People love to use that term to attack the argument against Covid-19 vaccines. Like other inflammatory words, “anti-vaxxer” is used to marginalize people and lump different beliefs together, with the purpose of invalidating valid concerns. This is about deciding whether to take a vaccine that has not finished medical trials, and the medical trials are being conducted on your fellow college students.

The University of Hawaii is mandating vaccinations for in-person attendance in Fall 2021. First, shame on the University of Hawaii system for mandating an experimental drug for its students. Second, this cannot be helping the already downward trend in enrollment for colleges across the United States. It seems like a knee jerk reaction by schools, or a way to pander to public sentiment and virtue signal that a school has “done its part”. Regardless of the reasoning, it is at best highly irresponsible.

Over 100 colleges across the US are mandating Covid-19 vaccinations or masks. Under federal law colleges simply cannot authorize students or employees to take a drug that has only been authorized for experimental use. A great resource for students and parents is an article by The Defender that provides detailed legal research regarding this issue. The article states “the bottom line is this: mandating products authorized for Emergency Use Authorization status (EUA) violates federal law as detailed in the following legal notifications.”

The article goes on to recommend that students print out and give their school the legal notifications provided by the article, stating the full reasons the school cannot mandate the Covid-19 vaccine. “The Children’s Health Defense legal team has written three legal notifications that anyone faced with a COVID vaccine, COVID test or mask mandate can use to inform employers and universities that they are violating federal law. You can download the three notifications here.”

In addition to this resource, Hawaii law provides for vaccine exemptions for both religious and medical reasons. According to the State’s Disease Outbreak Control Division webpage, Hawaii “requires students to meet immunization requirements before attending school. Exemptions from the immunization requirements may be allowed for medical or religious reasons if the appropriate documentation is presented to the school. No other exemptions are allowed by the State.”

Because the state requires all schools to submit a yearly report of recorded exceptions, these reports are available on the state’s website. In 2020, of 197,189 enrolled students grades K-12, 2.2% opted out of the vaccination program for religious reasons, and another .07% opted out for medical reasons, and another 3.44% had “incomplete immunizations”. That means that in 2020, 11,259 students did not follow the vaccination regimen required by the state. Do not let yourself feel isolated or alone when deciding how to respond to a school or college’s vaccine mandate. Stand firm in your beliefs and your right to choose for your own body.

What options do students have?

While some colleges are requiring Covid-19 vaccinations, many are not. One option for students is to look at other schools and decide if it is viable to attend a different college. As a student returning to college this fall, I understand that this is not an easy decision. A second option is to give your college the notification listed above and inform them they are violating federal law by requiring anyone to take an experimental vaccine. A third option where applicable is to submit an exemption form. A fourth possible option is to join together with other students at your schedule that do not want to get the vaccine, pool money together and hire a lawyer to represent you.

For young adults, wrestling with this difficult decision is an added stress to entering school. But if we stand together and stand for our medical freedom and right to bodily autonomy, we are already building an important character trait college would never instill in us – the ability to stand firm for what we believe, regardless of who stands against us.