Earlier this summer, I think many would agree that we all thought the COVID-19 pandemic had overstayed its welcome and was on the way out. The emergence of the more infectious, and more dangerous Delta variant of COVID-19 put this plan of action on hold. You want to know who’s to blame? People who are fully able to get a vaccination against COVID-19 and refuse to do so. Pittsburg State University has already put in good mitigation measures such as a new mask mandate, but they need to go the next logical step: proof of full vaccination.
As scientists have been saying from the beginning of the pandemic, science changes and evolves with new information. When the CDC put out their recommendation that vaccinated individuals could go without a mask, that was based on information from the initial and most common variant of COVID-19. As people who refused to be vaccinated continued to be unvaccinated, the virus was allowed to jump from more people to more people, and thus it was allowed to mutate further into what we now affectionately call the Delta Variant, a name that sounds ripped right out of a sci-fi movie. That was why masks were so important when we first got into this pandemic. Stopping the spread? It wasn’t just about stopping it from simply transmitting from person to person. It was about stopping its further evolution. Of course, there are a huge swath of people who refuse to wear a mask that think the theory of evolution by natural selection is not valid, so I’m not really surprised that we got into this mess.
To the matter at hand, the only way for Pittsburg State to ensure the safety of its students as residents of Crawford County (a county with only 50 percent people vaccinated approximately, I might add), is to require proof of vaccination for all students, staff, faculty, and visitors to the university and otherwise bar entry from campus. The only exception should be a medical exception, which are rare in and of themselves. Not a religious exemption. Not a political exemption. A medical exemption for those students with a disability that prevents them from being vaccinated due to underlying health concerns. Even then, Pittsburg State should be prepared to provide reasonable accommodation like they already do for these students. I don’t see the makeup of Crawford County changing all that much in the next coming months so, until the residents of Crawford County change their minds (which is not entirely likely), this is the safest way to protect students, faculty, staff, visitors and more importantly, the entire Pittsburg community. What’s the point of being a Pittsburg community if we do nothing to protect one another? Otherwise, we might as well go back to being hunter-gatherers fending for ourselves.
I can already hear the uproar of “You can’t do that.” or “It’s my right to choose what goes in my body.” In terms of public health and university admittance, the answers to those statements are “Yes, they can.” and “No, it isn’t.” Public schools both secondary and university-level have been requiring a variety of vaccinations for decades to enter schools. Additionally, the supreme court case “Jacobson v. Massachusetts” set the precedent for these requirements. It is not a HIPAA violation (that’s the way it’s actually spelled by the way) for a university or other public institution to ask you for your medical history. HIPAA applies to healthcare workers and healthcare institutions. That’s it.
This is really a simple public health matter. It shouldn’t be political, but it unfortunately has come to this. People who refuse vaccinations want all the privileges of living in society without any of the responsibility to live with the rest of us. You unfortunately cannot have your cake and eat it too. A proof of vaccination mandate needs to go into effect otherwise we, the people of Pittsburg and Crawford County, will be living in this pandemic for a very long time.