Vaccination rate at UC: Different perspectives prevent 100% immunization

A stack of vaccination cards waits to be filled for the recipient's records.

Alexandria Leland

A stack of vaccination cards waits to be filled for the recipient’s records.

By Matthew Breault, Utica College

Despite the mandatory COVID-19 vaccination requirement at Utica College, the campus does not have a 100% vaccination rate amongst students, faculty and staff.

At the start of the 2021 Fall Semester, Utica College added the COVID-19 vaccination to the list of required immunizations for students, as well as full-time and part-time employees of the College. 

According to the most recent numbers provided by Utica College Vice President for Emergency Management Shad Crowe on Sept. 8, the total student vaccination rate is at 94%, the residential student rate is 95%, the student-athletes rate is just under 96% and the vaccination rate for faculty and staff is just above 98%.

Dawn DeGironimo, the registered nurse at Utica College, said although the numbers on campus aren’t 100%, she is still satisfied with the current numbers.

“We are very pleased to see so many students, faculty and staff vaccinated,” DeGironimo said. “Ideally, a 100% vaccination rate would be great, but we understand there are reasons why it will never be 100%.”

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease said in a recent interview with NPR that vaccines are effective against both the virus and preventing serious disease or hospitalization. He also added that no matter what study or what country you look at, the statistics tell you the same thing.

Alexandria Leland

DeGironimo agreed with Dr. Fauci about the COVID-19 vaccine being effective in preventing the virus from spreading.

“The COVID-19 vaccine is safe, and the only way we are going to stop this virus in its tracks is if everyone who is able to be vaccinated does,” DeGironimo said.

Alyssa Winberg, a junior health studies and physical therapy major who is a member of the women’s Cross Country team, said she appreciates the efforts being put in by the students, faculty and staff in order for UC to return to full in-person classes.

“I think knowing that most of my professors and advisors are vaccinated makes me feel safe and confident they are doing everything in their power to allow us to return to fully in-person classes,” Winberg said. “I am also a student-athlete and not being able to compete last year for cross country was difficult, so I am really grateful to everyone that did their part in getting vaccinated so that way athletics could continue.”

Despite 94% of students on campus being vaccinated, there are still 6% of students who have not received the vaccine for various reasons. One unvaccinated student in particular, who requested anonymity out of privacy and safety concerns, was critical of the way Utica College has handled the vaccination situation.

They said one of the things Utica College could improve upon is testing protocols. 

“I don’t disagree with the weekly testing of unvaccinated students, but I was not happy to hear that the testing site was to be placed in the Strebel Student Lounge,”  they said. “I felt like I was being singled out and discriminated against for my personal choice because during the first week, it was clearly marked that unvaccinated were on the left, vaccinated on the right. I believe to protect the confidentiality of students and to make them feel more comfortable, UC should move the testing site to a quieter place on campus, a classroom, or a separate building.”

Before the uprise in cases once again in the local area, Utica College originally said that members of the UC community who were fully vaccinated were “no longer required to wear masks or observe social distancing while on campus.” But, “if you remain unvaccinated for any reason, masks are still required, in accordance with CDC guidelines.”

“Being that only 6% are not vaccinated, this group is now considered a minority,” the anonymous source said. “As much as we push for an all-inclusive, unified environment, taking the unvaccinated and now marking them by requiring masks, was like placing a scarlet letter on their forehead. Hearing the news that all students and staff had to wear masks coming back definitely put me at ease and made me feel more comfortable to start the fall semester.”

However, some vaccinated students disagree with the claim that Utica College is being authoritative in regards to student vaccination. 

“The school did not force students to get vaccinated, otherwise we wouldn’t have that many students who are unvaccinated who attend classes, sports games, club and organization activities etc.,” Winberg said. “I did not feel forced by the school to get my vaccine. I received my vaccine in February, months before the school made it a requirement, and I got the vaccine to keep myself safe and those that I care about safe.”

Although the college has a high vaccination rate, Winberg said it doesn’t mean they should take COVID-19 lightly. 

“Overall, I think that the college is heading in the right direction,” Winberg said. “However, we still need to remain vigilant and remember that we as UC students and faculty are a part of a broader community. If UC numbers were to suddenly spike, it would affect small businesses, other schools and the local people that live and work here. I am from here, I grew up here, my family lives here and it is important to me that my community remains safe.”

This story was originally published on The Tangerine on September 10, 2021.