SIUE students will not be required to get the COVID-19 vaccine for now, but a new team is working to navigate the logistics of vaccinating students in the future.
Lakesha Butler, professor in the School of Pharmacy and SOP Director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, said SIUE students are not currently required to get the vaccine because the vaccine has not been through the full approval process.
“Right now the COVID vaccine is not mandatory anywhere, and it’s mainly due to it being emergency-use approved, so it has not gone through the full approval,” Butler said.
Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Jeffrey Waple said another reason students are not required to get the vaccine is because college students are designated to be vaccinated along with the general population.
“We’re still in 1A. 1B is next, and as of today, higher education — colleges, universities — are not in 1B, so not in the next phase. So … the documentation, in 1B, it says education, but it’s really about K-12 and childcare centers and daycare centers,” Waple said.
Waple said SIUE must follow Illinois Department of Public Health guidelines to require vaccines.
“A vaccine requirement, or mandate, would have to be approved by the Illinois state legislature … we would have to take direction from IDPH and the state in order to make any vaccination mandatory, including COVID-19,” Waple said.
Student Affairs is establishing the Vaccine Implementation Team in order to plan the logistics of vaccine distribution. Waple said the team is defining the parameters of vaccine distribution per IDPH and Madison County Public Health Department guidance.
“We’ve started vaccinations in School of Dental Medicine and some of our clinical site faculty, staff and students and frontline healthcare,” Waple said. “So we’ll let campus know who’s been in 1A, then we will talk about who’s in 1B … and then develop a logistics plan if we were to become a mass vaccination site … and then the marketing campaign to roll out to campus, including frequently asked questions and website development.”
Butler serves on a panel of Black healthcare professionals who are working with pharmaceutical companies to ensure equitable distribution of the vaccine. Butler said the reason for the panel is distrust of the vaccine, specifically in Black and other minority communities.
“I, too, was very hesitant about getting the vaccine, especially when it was first going through the first phases of the clinical trial, for numerous reasons,” Butler said. “But once I received more insight and understood the efficacy and the safety, then [I] definitely was on board and was quite excited to get my first dose … and I think the more and more people are sharing their experiences with getting the vaccine, the hesitancy is starting to diminish, and I think that’s a good thing, especially it’s very important for individuals like myself and other minority healthcare providers to share their stories.”
Butler said she hopes the public’s hesitancy about the vaccine will lessen with time.
“We need about 70 percent of individuals to receive the vaccine in order to have what’s called herd immunity, where we can feel more comfortable going out without our masks potentially, but we’re not there yet … I never want to pressure individuals right now. I just like to share the information, educate, share the facts and dispel any myths so that they can make an informed decision,” Butler said. “So while we would love to have more people to accept and receive the vaccine, I think we’ll start to see those numbers gradually increase as we have more information and we disseminate that to the campus community.”
Rylie Pugh, a SWIC running start student who plans to attend SIUE in Fall 2021 from Highland, Illinois, said she is nervous about getting the vaccine because of the unknown long-term effects.
“I’m definitely not an anti-vax person. I have, you know, all the other vaccines and whatnot. But just with this one in particular, I am so nervous about it, because one, it is so new, and we don’t have years and years of research on it to know how it’s going to affect us long-term,” Pugh said.
Pugh said she believes getting the vaccine should be a personal choice, and would make changes in her life if she were required to get the vaccine.
“If nursing requires [COVID-19 vaccinations], then I’ll switch majors. But if SIU as a school requires it, then I’ll switch schools. I am not going to go anywhere or do anything where they require that because that could put my health at risk,” Pugh said.
Butler said although she experienced arm soreness and fatigue, she has not experienced any other side effects since receiving the vaccine.
“The arm soreness and fatigue lasted for about two days. After that, I haven’t had any symptoms. So my second dose is scheduled in two weeks, so I did receive the Moderna vaccine, and I feel great,” Butler said.
For more on the campus COVID-19 response, including vaccination updates, visit the SIUE COVID-19 Information webpage.