Headlines last week declared natural immunity better protection than vaccines, based on a Lancet study Thursday that backed up a groundbreaking Israeli study from . . . August 2021. Yet vaccine mandates continue to block a full return to normalcy, and it’s taking a particularly hard toll on college kids.
Three years in — and well after COVID ceased to be a deadly, nationwide threat — many institutions are still reluctant to let go of pandemic restrictions. Parents have come to see how those lingering rules have hit the young especially hard. For college students, campuses feel forever altered under the weight of the ubiquitous refrain “to keep the community safe.”
Some professors, for instance, still mask their classes or move them online. Many colleges continue to have vaccine and booster mandates in place, though the overwhelming majority of students have already acquired natural immunity and are among the least vulnerable population of Americans.
The graduating class of 2023 has hardly known the freedoms older generations enjoyed — exuberant and unrestricted socializing, in-person intellectual debates and, of course, the freedom to choose whether to take an experimental medical intervention. Is it any wonder college enrollment is down? CUNY just reported a decline of 9 percent.
While many were willing to accept a temporary suspension of rights when little was known about this mysterious virus, there has been a dramatic shift in public opinion of late. Even those who advocated for vaccine mandates and lockdowns now talk of “pandemic amnesty,” quietly turning their attention to unintended consequences of the pandemic response instead.
But bureaucracy lags far behind. It operates at its own speed, regardless of common sense, critical thinking or harmful impact. College vaccine mandates are a glaring example of this phenomenon; after all, vaccine mandates are simply not effective in protecting the community. How could they be if they don’t prevent transmission? Nonetheless, they remain stubbornly the norm in New York and elsewhere.
One of the most outrageous college mandates can be found on SUNY campuses. Shockingly, it only applies to students: Older, more vulnerable faculty and staff are not required to take vaccines, making it one of the most egregious and legally questionable mandates still standing.
SUNY’s policy affects over a million students, who are at little risk of serious COVID-19 complications. And like all medical interventions, the vaccines aren’t without risk.
So why are we still doing this? In 2021, a SUNY student succumbed to vaccine-related myocarditis after he was forced to take the vaccine to stay enrolled. Tragedies like this must not go ignored and should have been enough to call mandates into question long ago.
Risk of myocarditis in young men and menstrual cycle irregularities in women are recognized side effects of the vaccines that weren’t fully known when they were first made available. What else will we discover in hindsight, and who will be liable?
Students and parents have struggled to have our voices heard, and at least one university in New York has listened. Rochester Institute of Technology recently dropped its vaccine mandate, noting that “while COVID-19 is present in our community, it has evolved into a milder illness with significantly less risk to the general population.” This refreshing return to common sense makes SUNY’s 2023 spring guidance look even more ridiculous than ever.
Of all the lessons from the pandemic, the greatest is how fragile our civil liberties are. We have witnessed a relentless encroachment on every civil liberty we’ve ever taken for granted, up to and including the right to education and bodily autonomy.
Even with the pandemic clearly over, the FDA continues to issue emergency-use authorizations for COVID-19 vaccines and tests. We have no idea what any of this means for college mandates, but we do know that after three long years, we have had enough. Students and parents will no longer be silenced. If college bureaucrats aren’t willing to end their reckless and outdated COVID-19 policies now, parents will shift their support to colleges that do.
Yasmina Palumbo is co-author of this piece, which first ran in the New York Post.