EDITORIAL: Marywood needs a vaccine mandate


While a mask mandate is in effect, Marywood needs to do more to protect students and staff.

One of the biggest questions for schools across the country is whether to require proof of vaccination against the coronavirus. While some local colleges, like the University of Scranton, have required the vaccine to return to campus, Marywood University has not.

What’s incredibly disappointing and frustrating is that, even though the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has fully approved the Pfizer vaccine, only 69% of the Marywood community was fully vaccinated against COVID-19, according to an email from pandemic coordinator Dr. Yerodin Lucas on September 3. This means that approximately 31% of our Marywood community are still not vaccinated, which is cause for concern. Marywood needs to take charge and require vaccination for the greater safety of everyone on campus and off.

Despite encouragement from university officials to get vaccinated, that number is unlikely to increase substantially unless it becomes required.

Vaccine requirements at universities are not a new concept. Proof of vaccination against measles, meningitis, mumps and rubella, as well as shingles and other transmissible diseases are required by PA state law and by Marywood. Additionally, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) recommends a plethora of vaccines for ages 19 and older. The only difference is that the COVID-19 vaccine has been highly politicized and controversial, especially among conservative and religious communities.

One of the arguments in the religious community is the fact that fetal stem cells were used for the development of the Johnson and Johnson vaccine. That fact does not align with the belief that life begins at conception and the use of stem cells from a fetus is immoral. Nevertheless, the other two more popular vaccines, Pfizer and Moderna, did not use fetal stem cells in their development, making that argument moot.

There is also popular support for a vaccine mandate. According to a recent Wood Word Twitter poll, 71% of voters were in favor of a potential mandate. On a similar Facebook poll of The Wood Word’s readers, that number jumped to 89% in favor of a mandate.

It is also confusing how Marywood can implement a mask mandate and not a vaccine mandate. It is arguably harder to enforce mask wearing at all times. There have been countless incidents of students not wearing their masks in areas like the Learning Commons or of students wearing them improperly. (Remember, it goes over the nose for it to be on properly). Improper mask wearing was such an issue at the welcome back bingo that winners were not allowed to collect their prize if they were not wearing their mask properly.

Aside from strongly encouraging vaccination, Marywood hasn’t done enough to push students to get vaccinated. Unvaccinated students are still allowed to participate in events, extracurriculars, clubs and sports. For those who are vaccinated and properly masking, it’s incredibly stressful to be interacting with others and not knowing if just talking to them could make you sick.

The lack of a vaccine requirement clashes with the Marywood mission, which is displayed on the school’s website andreads, “Marywood University prepares students to seek sustainable solutions for the common good and educates global citizens to live responsibly in an interdependent world.” Living responsibly means taking account of the welfare of others, and protecting yourself and your neighbors in that interdependent world by getting vaccinated from a disease that has killed over 600,000 Americans, and 4.7 million people worldwide. The university administration needs to be doing more to protect the small community we’ve created in and around campus.

The five year strategic plan is the current project of university president Sister Mary Persico, IHM, Ed.D, which outlines the expansion of Marywood into a global community. This includes portraying Marywood as a place of lifelong learning. From preschool to higher education to elder care facilities, there are a lot of people interacting on campus. How can we protect those living in Marywood Heights, or the children at the Fricchione Center, or the students at Nativity Miguel by not requiring a vaccine for those who are eligible? The latter two are currently unable to get vaccinated.

Persico was quoted in a Wood Word article published March 25, 2021, as saying, “I would love to walk into the Learning Commons and see some people from Marywood Heights Skilled Nursing Center coming in there, getting Starbucks, reading the newspaper, or checking out a book. I would love that.” That vision can only become a reality if the residents of Marywood Heights feel safe around students and staff on campus. With such a low vaccination rate, it wouldn’t be surprising if they decided to stay in their own building.

Marywood’s motto contains these three words: sanctitas, scientia, sanitas. Translated from Latin, they mean: holiness, knowledge, health. In following this motto, with the knowledge provided to us by dedicated scientists who have spent countless hours and years developing a safe vaccine, it is best for the health of the entire Marywood community to require vaccinations against the COVID-19 pandemic.