More than 520 of America’s 5,300 colleges and universities, approximately 10 percent, have announced students must be fully vaccinated against COVID before they return for fall classes. Among these institutions are the public universities of California and New York, pending full U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval of the vaccines. Together, these two systems enroll approximately 1.5 million students.
Other state universities that have enacted vaccine “mandates” include the universities of Michigan and Maryland, as well as Indiana University. Scores of private institutions have also mandated COVID vaccines, including Yale, Stanford, Duke, Johns Hopkins, Cornell, Notre Dame, Emory, Brown, Syracuse, Boston University, and Princeton.
We think that these mandates are unethical, chiefly because they indiscriminately require administering an experimental biological agent in the setting of a clinical investigation to a population that is at greater risk of harm from the drug than from COVID. Our advice to schools that have not yet adopted vaccine mandates is: don’t.
But where participation in the investigational vaccination program is nevertheless required by university policies, there must be sensible, medically sound policies for granting medical exemptions.