Montclair State University recently joined the ranks of hundreds of other colleges in the United States that have made the coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine mandatory for all students who plan to live or attend classes on campus in the fall. Given the lack of remote offerings, this means most of the Montclair State populace will need to be vaccinated.
The overall student response to the requirement has been positive, but many have expressed concern, reluctance or resentment, bordering on anger. Some people’s fear is based on mistrust of the American healthcare system, which has a history of systemically abusing and neglecting nonwhite patients.
Others are convinced the vaccine is being used by government organizations to track citizens and invade their privacy – which the government does in fact already do via social security numbers and internet surveillance.
Some simply do not trust what is in the vaccine, citing deaths and allergic reactions as proof of how unsafe the vaccine is, or how quickly it was developed; but who can name every ingredient in the fast food they eat, or the personal care products they use?
In other words, is it hard to acknowledge the vast majority of people already have little idea of what they’re putting into their bodies? This is not meant to invalidate such concerns but to put them into perspective.
The COVID-19 vaccine was developed in response to an international state of emergency, in an age where understandings in science and medicine grow exponentially by the day. By contrast, the influenza vaccine took three decades to develop in the early twentieth century.
Anyone who went to public school has already been inoculated against many diseases and all public universities have similar requirements. The COVID-19 vaccine may still be an “experimental” drug, but it has largely been proven safe and effective and any risk of adverse reaction has been no greater than in other basic preventatives, such as birth control.
Eventually it will likely become part of annual vaccine offerings alongside the flu shot, which was also once an experimental vaccine but was then proven safe and effective.
Returning to in-person classes is sure to be a strange experience for everyone after over a year spent in near-total isolation. Paradoxically, all that time spent alone and becoming increasingly individual was done together, for the sake of others. Physical separation doesn’t lessen the significance of such a massive, altruistic effort and as people begin to see each other face to face again, this effort cannot diminish. Instead, it must be enhanced.
As tentative steps toward a semblance of normalcy are taken, the necessity of considering others will only become more apparent. Just because someone might feel secure enough in their health or immune system to refuse the vaccine doesn’t mean everyone around them feels the same.
Soon, Montclair State will start to feel like a real college again instead of a ghost town and with the reassurance that all students are working in tandem to protect their community. The reopening could be a more positive, exciting prospect for everyone and we can finally see the return to normalcy we have all been yearning for the past year.
Those who had to work through the COVID-19 pandemic have been risking their lives every day to support themselves and keep society running. Having the choice to do otherwise is a massive privilege and the least that can be done to repay the people we all rely on is the guarantee of safety around others.
Regardless of what you decide, The Montclarion encourages all members of the student body to get the free COVID-19 vaccine to protect themselves and those they care for. The rest of the student body will thank you and we are confident once you are back in classrooms, grabbing a meal with friends or going out on a Friday night, you won’t regret it.