On Thursday, Sept. 16, the Meredith College Executive Leadership Team (ELT) announced that they are “adding the COVID-19 vaccination to the list of required vaccinations for students…and employees, except for those with religious or documented medical exemptions.” Meredith had previously only highly recommended the vaccine, but given the recent Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine they decided to make a decision for the “health and safety of [the] entire community.”
In order to give individuals time to get the vaccine, the new vaccination requirement will not take effect until the Spring 2022 semester. To remain in compliance with the mandate, students and employees must submit their vaccination status by Jan. 4, 2022. Any student or employee who wishes to apply for a medical or religious exemption will be able to do so starting on Oct. 15, 2021. All medical exemptions must be physician-documented. The email stated that those who receive a waiver by Meredith College “will still need to [wear] masks and be tested weekly until further notice.”
The email stressed that the ELT “listened to a wide range of opinions, arguments and applications” and chose to implement the vaccination requirement after consulting with “Meredith’s Administrative Management Council and health experts.” As of Sept. 21, 2021, 78% of students and 79.4% of employees are vaccinated against COVID-19, according to the Staying Strong webpage. That value has changed since the original email was released on Sept. 16, which stated that “nearly 80% of employees and over 73% of students have submitted proof of vaccination.”
On social media, there has been backlash amongst current students, parents and alumnae who believe that requiring the COVID-19 vaccine does not allow them the personal freedom they desire. Others have been quick to point out that Meredith already required a Certificate of Immunization for many other diseases. President Jo Allen released a video on Sept. 17 further explaining the College’s decision-making process, which is viewable on the Staying Strong website.
When The Herald asked Meredith students what they thought about the new policy, the majority of responses were supportive. Naiylah Harris, ‘22, said she is “so happy they finally made it mandatory...One step towards our campus’ safety!” However, some students have concerns about compliance. Natalie Baker, ‘25, said, “I am concerned about how many people are talking about faking religious exemptions...and hope they are reported.” Alumna Mary Kathryn Keleher, ‘99, stated that she is “so happy [her] alma mater is taking a stand for health.”
An anonymous student shared a personal story regarding those who are considering submitting a religious exemption for nonreligious reasons. “I had to have an exemption on file to go to school here because my parents are anti-vaxxers and it was physically impossible for me to catch up on all of my primary immunizations from the time I was 18 to my enrollment,” they said. “Getting all my vaccines takes months, time, a driver’s license...and I still got the COVID-19 vaccine. Hearing people complain about a privilege they have been able to receive their whole lives makes me question where their logic is.” The student went on to say that if anyone was scared about getting the vaccine, they encouraged them to fight their fears and do their own research about the risks and benefits. “It can be really scary,” they said, “but I promise you’ll be okay.”
By Elinor Shelp-Peck, Co-Editor in Chief