Temple, be clearer about the vaccine mandate

The Editorial Board urges Temple to be more transparent in explaining the consequences that students will face if they are not fully vaccinated by Oct. 15.

On Aug. 13, Temple University announced it will require students, faculty and staff to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by Oct. 15, following the City of Philadelphia’s vaccination mandate for college campuses, The Temple News reported

As part of the announcement, Temple outlined the potential consequences of failing to comply with the vaccine mandate, including suspension, expulsion or lost access to university buildings and housing. 

However, there is still a lack of clarity regarding how Temple plans to enforce these sanctions, despite a follow-up announcement on Sept. 9. 

The Editorial Board urges Temple to be more direct and transparent about the potential consequences for students who are not fully vaccinated by the Oct. 15 deadline because it allows students to make informed and thoughtful decisions regarding the vaccine. As the deadline approaches, students need updated information regarding the mandate that can be easily accessed, like published on Temple’s website.

The university’s deadline for students to receive the first dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine was Sept. 10, and the deadline for the first dose of Moderna was Sept. 3. Students must get their second shot of these vaccines — or the one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine — by Oct. 1, The Temple News reported.

Students unable to receive the vaccine for religious or medical reasons must submit their exemption request forms by Sept. 17, wrote Mark Denys, director of Student Health Services, in an email sent to unvaccinated students on Sept. 9.

The Editorial Board asks Temple to clarify whether or not the university will allow non-compliant students to continue their education virtually, as offering that option could alter classroom structures and professors’ lesson plans. 

Temple was among the last of local colleges to mandate vaccinations, with Drexel University, the University of Pennsylvania and Thomas Jefferson University requiring vaccines in April and Villanova University requiring vaccines in June, The Temple News reported. 

Though all colleges in Philadelphia are mandating vaccines, their plans for students who fail to comply with the policy vary. While Jefferson’s vaccine policy for non-compliance may impact a student’s academic progression, Drexel offers online options for unvaccinated students. 

Temple’s vaccination policy impacts the larger North Central community, including vaccinated students, community members, faculty and staff. Although some unvaccinated students may return home after losing access to on-campus buildings, others may seek housing in the neighborhoods surrounding campus, which could cause a spike in COVID-19 cases in North Central. 

Some schools at Temple have sent follow-up emails to students with reminders about the mandate, but the Editorial Board believes there should be a university-wide notice that expands upon the Aug. 13 announcement. The new announcement should explain possible sanctions, qualifications for vaccine exemptions and how the academic year will proceed after Oct. 15. 

In order to effectively encourage students to get vaccinated, Temple must lay out a detailed COVID-19 plan so students can determine the best course of action when getting the vaccine.

While the Editorial Board strongly encourages students to seek out vaccines if they are able, it recognizes the choice is up to each student. The university must therefore be completely transparent with the consequences of remaining unvaccinated.

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