For the first time since the pandemic struck, many colleges and universities are starting the fall term at full capacity, with dorms full of students, classes held in-person, and school events back on the calendar. While each college or university’s strategy for preventing the spread of COVID-19 is different, they share a common thread: Vaccination is the best tool many campuses have for keeping COVID-19 at bay.
Hundreds of universities and colleges are requiring students to be vaccinated as a condition of enrollment, but convincing hesitant students to get the shot remains a challenge. A recent series of conversations among college and university leaders — organized by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine — brought to light new and creative methods that campus leaders are using to encourage vaccination in this specific group of young adults.
Many universities have mandated vaccination for students who plan to be on-campus this term. For students who elect not to vaccinate and instead use a waiver for the mandate, Western Washington University has created a required 30-minute COVID-19 education course to help them understand the science behind managing the virus’s spread, and “to try to dispel some of the myths around that,” said David Hansen, associate medical director for the student health center.
Hansen said Western is also requiring weekly testing for waiver students — to achieve the dual goals of campus health and safety and motivating students to get the vaccine. “Our hope is that if students get tired of coming in to get tested all the time, we will have our nurses standing by with some vaccines.”