Messiah University’s COVID-19 vaccination rates are concerningly low as students and faculty prepare to enter the fall semester. As of August 5, 46.9 percent of undergraduate students are fully vaccinated. 

Unlike many other colleges in the United States that are mandating the vaccine, Messiah is allowing students the freedom to choose. Students are not required to get the vaccine if they object to it for any reason. 

There are pros to getting vaccinated against COVID-19. It protects individual students and the surrounding community. While the majority of Messiah students are young, healthy, and at low-risk for hospitalization due to the virus, the community does contain older staff members as well as immunocompromised students. 

Messiah’s director of communications, Danielle Ran, provided some individual benefits of receiving the vaccine. 

“Fully vaccinated students do not have to participate in surveillance COVID-19 testing, are significantly less likely to be required to isolate, do not have to quarantine if identified as a close contact (unless symptomatic), encounter fewer challenges to participation in certain off-campus activities and most importantly are personally protected from COVID-19 infection and from spreading COVID-19 to others,” Ran said.

Ran also explained the important benefits of receiving the vaccine from a community standpoint.

“If Messiah’s student and employee populations can each get to a minimum of a 70 percent vaccination rate, there are additional benefits for the entire campus community,” Ran said. “These include elimination of all masking and social distancing on campus, return to large-group events and programs without restrictions (Powerhouse, chapel, concerts, athletic events, etc.), residential visitation returned to normal, and a reduced risk of the spread of COVID-19 on campus.” 

Matt Jenkins, Messiah’s student body president, explained the significance of reaching 70 percent. 

“The CDC estimated that for herd immunity, we need between 70 and 85 percent of individuals to be vaccinated,” Jenkins said. “Herd immunity is essentially the idea that by a community being vaccinated, it will protect those who can’t individually get vaccinated by reducing the number of infections surrounding them.”

For these additional community benefits, Messiah must reach a 70 percent vaccination rate. While still far from that goal, both Ran and Jenkins believe that our vaccination rate will grow by the start of the semester.

Jenkins is optimistic that students just have not uploaded their vaccination status to the online health portal yet but will do so as the start of the semester approaches. 

“Students taking the time to update their vaccination status is crucial,” Ran said, “as fall return plans, which depend on vaccination rate, are being developed now.”

So while not required, Messiah administration would like to encourage students to get vaccinated and upload proof to the Engle Center’s online health portal as soon as possible. For those without easy access to the vaccine, the Engle Center is now offering the Moderna vaccine for free.