On April 27, it was announced that Valparaiso University will require COVID-19 vaccines for all faculty, staff and students for the fall 2021 semester.
The university already requires students to be immunized for measles, mumps, rubella, tetanus and meningitis.
Before returning to campus, students and faculty will be required to provide proof that they are fully vaccinated. Accommodations will be made for those with documented medical and religious exemptions.
According to President José Padilla, exemptions will be considered through the same process used earlier this year with the required flu vaccines.
In the state of Indiana, vaccines are available for free to all adults over the age of 16, including out of state students. The University had also offered the first dose of the Moderna vaccine to students and faculty on April 21 and 24.
Valpo’s Student Health Center has ordered more vaccines and will open up vaccination appointments for students once they have arrived.
“I’m doing it first and foremost to keep us safe, to keep us healthy,” Padilla said. “But second of all I’m trying to restore a sense of normalcy to our students so they’re not constantly looking over their shoulder to see ‘ok am I going to get sick’ and so that they can have as much of a normal college experience as one can have during the COVID era.”
According to Padilla, those who are exempted from the vaccine will be subjected to different COVID-19 protocols than that of vaccinated students.
“If they are exempted they will be subject to more testing, the possibility of quarantines and isolations that people who are immunized wouldn’t necessarily be subject to,” Padilla said. “We have to do that for the safety and welfare of not only them, but for everybody else because although it’s unlikely that a vaccinated student would get ill you never know.”
One of the goals of the vaccines is to require less surveillance testing for the majority of the campus.
“And let’s say for example we have 50 students on campus who are not vaccinated they could get each other sick or faculty and staff sick who whatever reason aren’t vaccinated,” Padilla said. “Maybe they’re also exempt so the benefit of being vaccinated is you won’t be as subjected to the arduous and inconvenient testing we subjected you to in the past.”
In a meeting with the Student Senate general body, Padilla said that he had waited to make his final decision on vaccinations until after he heard more information from the FDA about the temporary pause in distribution of the Johnson & Johnson Vaccine.
“This is something that I think will be very, very beneficial for the long term stability of the academic year,” he has said to the student senators.
The decision to require vaccines was based on the safety of the campus.
“Valparaiso University holds the health and safety of our campus as our highest priority,” Padilla said in the press release sent to students. “As we look to provide our students the optimal college experience and learning environment, the University will continue to follow the guidance of local and national health experts. A vaccinated campus is the safest and most effective way to accomplish our objective of in-person instruction this fall.”