Marywood will not require COVID vaccine in fall semester


Marywood will not require the COVID vaccine for students or employees, but still mandate masking and social distancing.

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to burden the world, calls for vaccine mandates are on the rise.

Despite recent mandates by the Biden administration for vaccinations in the military and businesses with more than 100 employees, decisions for mandates in higher education have been left largely to the discretion of individual universities.

Marywood University has opted not to require students, faculty or employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19 for the fall 2021 semester. However, the university still is encouraging everyone in the community to get vaccinated.

Several factors played into the decision to not require proof of vaccination for reentry onto campus this year. Originally, one of those factors was the fact that the three vaccines had not been granted full approval by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). On August 23, the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine was granted full approval for everyone ages 12 and up.

Another factor in Marywood’s non-decision was the CDC guidelines to recommend masks indoors regardless of vaccination status. While both vaccinated and unvaccinated people can go maskless outside, Marywood has required mask wearing indoors.

A vaccine mandate is not entirely out of the question for Marywood, though.

“It’s still on the table, it’s definitely being considered,” said Dr. Yerodin Lucas, Marywood’s pandemic coordinator.

Marywood’s neighbor, the University of Scranton, did choose to require vaccines. Their vaccination rate is 96%, due to religious and medical exemptions. While their full enrollment numbers will be published in October, the mandate did not greatly impact enrollment.

“Incoming enrollment was a little lower this year but I don’t know if a vaccine mandate had an impact on that. There are many factors that go into admissions decisions,” said Stan Zygmunt, director of news and media for the University of Scranton.

Marywood saw a 12% increase in freshman enrollment from last fall to this semester, according to Rachel Hartz, director of undergraduate admissions. The lack of a vaccine mandate had little impact on enrollment.

As of September 3, 69% of Marywood students have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19. Since the beginning of the semester, 32 students have reported testing positive for COVID-19, 10 of which were through reentry testing. Two employees have reported positive test results since August 23.

One concern for those still withholding vaccinations is the number of breakthrough cases. People who are fully vaccinated can still contract and spread COVID-19, though it is not common. According to data released by the Pennsylvania Department of Health, 97% of COVID-19 related deaths were from unvaccinated individuals. Only 213 vaccinated people died from COVID-19, and those were often individuals with underlying medical conditions.

Marywood hosted a vaccine clinic in the spring semester, with decent turnout. However, a vaccine clinic held at the start of the semester only vaccinated about 20 people, according to Dr. Lucas. Despite this, he feels that Marywood is doing the best it can.

“Even without a vaccine requirement, we are as in person as possible to have the best experience as possible for students,” said Lucas.

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