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The Antelope

The Antelope

Vaccines, the path to normalcy should be voluntary

CHRISTOPHER DOLAN /THE TIMES TRIBUNE On Tuesday, Biden announced that the vaccine will be available to anyone that wants it.

As vaccination opportunities start becoming more available to students, a looming question is whether the university will require students to prove immunization before attending classes in the fall semester.

The vaccine identification debate is picking up nationwide, with disinformation weighing heavy on the scale as vaccine skepticism spreads both online and in person. 

While some simply house concerns about a vaccine developed so rapidly in response to the greatest public health challenge of the past century, this conversation is being shaped in no small part by professional vaccine skeptics and the so-called anti-vax movement, which pushed a number of bunk claims that have repeatedly been disproven by scientific studies — which skeptics often dismiss in bad faith arguments.

Regardless of where the argument stands on the timing of these vaccines, the facts are that vaccine development technologies are the best they’ve ever been and that research for the COVID-19 shot has seen the highest concentration of monetary and human resources in history, dwarfing the relative prioritization of past vaccines. 

While anti-vaxxers may not have much solid ground to stand on when it comes to vaccine discouragement, they do manage to touch on one point that rings true on vaccine encouragement: vaccination cannot be allowed to gatekeep societal interaction.

Schools around the country are beginning to require immunization records for their students, and the push for this to become the norm is increasing. There’s no question that they have the power to do so, given they already can mandate vaccinations for a number of diseases like hepatitis.

But to force this on the student body would violate student autonomy and only serve to create tension between the administration and the student body. 

While some students may accept or even promote this decision, the environment it would create on campus would result in further tension between already contentious worldviews.

Further, if students are required to vaccinate, will professors be? While many of our professors and peers are already jumping at opportunities to get a shot, some are unquestionably more resistant. If resistant students are forced to, will resistant professors be as well? Outside of exemptions for medical or religious reason, why should the expectation be any different between us and them?

UNK’s stance should be one of encouragement and facilitation, not of requirement or indentification. 

Ultimately, immunization gets us to a place where we can have a safe and open campus again. But the path to that state of normalcy has to be taken together.

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