The path forward at John Carroll

In+this+May+3%2C+2021+file+photo%2C+a+man+holds+his+vaccination+reminder+card+after+having+received+his+first+shot+at+a+pop-up+vaccination+site.+

(AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

In this May 3, 2021 file photo, a man holds his vaccination reminder card after having received his first shot at a pop-up vaccination site.

Thomas Frazier and Anthony Tarescavage

Editor’s note: This series of recommendations on how how the University’s vaccine requirement is carried out was submitted by Professors Thomas Frazier and Anthony Tarescavage. Read their argument regarding the requirement itself here

In light of the research reviewed on COVID-19 in part one of this column, how do we move forward with vaccine mandates in a way that is considerate of both the individual as well as the common good? We propose the following:

1. We are already equipped for remote learning, hybrid learning, and remote work. Give all faculty, staff, and students the option to work remotely as long as they certify that the reason is to minimize the transmission of COVID-19. The reason of I like working from my bedis not applicable. Students who choose remote work must do so for all classes to disincentivize selection of remote work options for reasons other than reducing the transmission of COVID-19. This recommendation will respect the rights of the most vulnerable to COVID-19 from exposing themselves or their loved ones to the virus.

2. At a minimum, all of the following vaccine mandate exemption requests should be approved, based on the research reviewed in part one of this column: 1) Prior COVID-19 infection, 2) Age 30 or younger with no significant medical comorbidities, 3) Individuals who due to culturalor personalreasons (including historical injustices) do not trust government institutions, and 4) Individuals who are concerned about the long-term side effects of vaccination. In particular, we assert the following:

 

If young and healthy individuals certify the following, they should in all cases be exempted: I will not be vaccinated because there are others who rely on me and who would be negatively affected if I were to fall ill for any reason. Because of my age my risks of serious illnessdue to COVID-19 are low. Research indicates that my risks of short-term complications from the vaccine may be higher than the benefitsof decreasing my risk of becoming infected with COVID-19. The risks of long-term side effects of the vaccine on me are unknown, which has led the FDA to order additional researchon the Pfizer vaccine’s long-term side effects. 

If anyone certifies the following, they should in all cases be exempted: I will not be vaccinated because there are others who rely on me and who would be negatively affected if I were to fall ill for any reason. The risks of long-term side effects of the vaccine on me are unknown, which has led the FDA to order additional researchon the Pfizer vaccine’s long-term side effects. After thoughtfully considering all the available information, it is in the best interest of myself and my loved ones for whom I care that I do not get vaccinated.

If anyone with prior COVID infection certifies the following and can provide evidence of infection (lab test result, doctors note, etc.), they should in all cases be exempted: I will not be vaccinated because there are others who rely on me and who would be negatively affected if I were to fall ill for any reason. I have already had COVID-19, which offers substantially greater immunitythan vaccination, and I see no reason to expose myself to additional risks of short-term and long-term side effects of vaccination. The risks of long-term side effects of the vaccine on me are unknown, which has led the FDA to order additional researchon the Pfizer vaccine’s long-term side effects. 

 

3. As COVID-19 is primarily transmitted by symptomatic individuals, people who display any symptoms of illness should not come to work or class until tested for COVID-19. Encouraging and supporting remote work will make this initiative more feasible.

4. As argued in part one of this column, there is insufficient research demonstrating meaningful differences in community spread across vaccinated and the unvaccinated (particularly in young, healthy individuals); therefore, masking rules should apply equally to individuals from both groups. If there are no masks, then that means no masks for everyone. If there are masks, that means masks for everyone. In the absence of evidence to support different masking rules, masks will only serve as a marker that reveal everyone’s personal medical information and that treat some individuals unfairly.

5. Along these lines, vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals should have equal access to facilities and community events. They should not be segregated based on vaccination status, as this only serves to potentially marginalize people based on legitimate medical/personal decisions.

6. Routine testing of unvaccinated individuals is reasonable given that one is much more likely to contract COVID-19 if unvaccinated. However, unvaccinated individuals should not have to pay costs associated with these tests. For the reasons outlined in part one of this column, those who take the risk of contracting COVID-19 by foregoing vaccination can reasonably be considered as supporting the greater good by increasing the likelihood of the much stronger natural immunity(assuming they isolate and get tested when experiencing COVID-like symptoms). Paid testing is functionally similar to fines for not being vaccinated, which is unfair and unwarranted given the research reviewed in this column. Similar to how we should support the cost of remote work for the vulnerable, we should support the cost of routine testing for those exposing themselves to risk of contracting COVID-19 and gaining natural immunity.

7. The university should maintain a COVID-19 dashboard updated weekly with vaccination rates, case counts, and natural immunity rates. The latter can be inferred from natural immunity-related exemption requests. This information will enable community members to more accurately judge their risk in this dynamic pandemic.

8. The university should also maintain a dashboard that includes the following: number of remote work/class exemptions requested and approved as well as number of vaccine exemptions requested and approved. An account of the reasons for disapproval is also needed. This information is necessary to hold the university accountable for their decision-making in these areas, to avoid arbitrary, highly subjective decisions that could be influenced by unintentional authoritarian attitudes (as predicted by the parasite-stress model from evolutionary psychology). If this sort of mechanism is not implemented, we welcome emails detailing denied requests to [email protected]or [email protected]. We will compile this information and do our best to hold the university accountable for their decisions. Of note, as tenured faculty we are stewards of the university and consider it our responsibility to hold the administration accountable for its actions regardless of who is currently serving in the administration.

Conclusion

John Carroll University has the opportunity to lead other college campuses on managing COVID-19. To this end, we reiterate the guiding principle outlined in part one of this column: freedomgive people the freedom to manage their own risk of contracting COVID-19 as well as the freedom to shelter themselves from this risk. And be waryoftheopposing principle: authoritarianism—the hard-wired and insidious human tendency that very commonly emerges during pandemics.