Western to lift vaccine mandate

Written by: Mirella Barrera-Betancourt

Western will no longer require students and faculty to receive the primary doses of the COVID-19 vaccination — a change in policy effective on June 30. 

Beth Scroggins, director of the Student Health and Counseling Center, announced the plans of the change in university protocol via an email sent to current students last month, quoting a message from President Jesse Peters, Ph.D. In the message, Dr. Peters equally encourages current students to continue following guidelines set by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and remain up-to-date with COVID-19 vaccinations and boosters. 

Director Scroggins said that the decision to eliminate the vaccine requirement was a result of extensive “group effort” with the community, with consideration taken into the county numbers, other university protocols, the statewide and university vaccination rate, as well as CDC and OHA guidelines. 

“There is a lot that goes into each decision around COVID, including lifting the vaccination requirements,” Scroggins said. “We felt we’re at a good place where it’s safe to lift the requirement.”

The lifting of the vaccine mandate consequently means the discontinuation of mandated isolation for students in on-campus housing who test positive, as well as self-reporting through the student portal. However, the university still highly advises students, staff and faculty to be considerate of the people around them, and to continue isolating in residence halls if symptoms appear or contact with an infected person is suspected. This applies to any illness. 

“If you’re sick, have symptoms, stay home, regardless of what you’re sick with,” Scroggins said.

Butler Hall, which is the residence hall designated for students who test positive, will remain open to students who wish to isolate themselves from the community. Testing services and rapid self-testing kits will also remain available for students at the Student Health and Counseling Center. 

The change in protocol regarding the vaccine arrived two months before the end of the spring term and conclusion of the 2022-23 academic year. However, it is not exactly surprising for the community. 

The Federal Public Health Emergency for COVID-19 expired on May 11, which Scroggins says was also taken into consideration in the decision to lift the vaccine requirement. With the public health declaration soon expiring, colleges and universities across the country were quick to do away with their vaccine mandates. This includes Oregon State University, which will no longer require the vaccine beginning June 16. 

This slew of changes in university policies and protocols instigated controversy on many university campuses, as well as sparked safety concerns for students and faculty. 

Scroggins addressed this concern, stating, “I’m sure not everybody likes every decision. I just really want to emphasize how thoughtful (Western) is on the decisions they make. I want people to feel comfortable that a good decision was made with the information that we had.”

For any questions and concerns regarding Western’s COVID-19 protocol, students should contact the Student Health and Counseling Center.

Contact the author at howlnews@wou.edu