Throughout the coronavirus pandemic, faculty have often been the campus constituency that has called for the strictest anti-Covid measures. But at Fordham University, dozens of instructors are protesting the announcement that community members must provide proof by Nov. 1 that they have received the bivalent booster shot, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s latest recommendation for the Covid-shot.
Some put together a petition requesting an end to the recurring claim. As of Friday, the petition had 100 signatures, including some employees. Families and some students and staff, has circulated a much larger petition.
The Fordham debate reflects the complexity of policy to mitigate Covid at colleges amid growing ambivalence among Americans about extracurriculars. In an environment of intense opposition to and politicization of all Covid vaccines, relatively few colleges appear to have agreed to use the latest booster vaccine despite the CDC recommendation. No college credentialsThe group, which opposes Covid vaccination requirements, has about 20 bivalent repeat mandates nationwide in its database of nearly 2,000 colleges.
Opponents of Fordham’s policy say they fear side effects from Covid vaccines, but believe the latest booster won’t prevent them from passing the infection on to others. “It’s pure speculation that these vaccines are necessary,” said Nicholas Tampio, a political science professor and leader of resistance to vaccine policy at Fordham. “We should let everyone decide for themselves whether to buy that particular bivalent boost.”
The documented risks of Covid vaccines are real but rare. Out of every million doses of the Covid vaccine given to men aged 18-24, there is a group at highest risk of developing heart problems after vaccination. government reports about 60 controlled cases of myocarditis, or inflammation of heart tissue. According to the CDC, most patients with myocarditis recover quickly, although researchers do still learning possible long-term effects. Another recent one A study found that receiving Covid vaccines can sometimes alter menstrual periods. The authors of the study wrote that the change is likely to be temporary.
At the same time, there is evidence that Covid vaccines prevent severe illness and death in those who do. But there is uncertainty about how well the latest boost will keep people from becoming infected and infecting others. Advisors of the Food and Drug Administration in the summer supported development a bivalent enhancer designed to better protect people against the Omicron variant of the coronavirus that has become dominant in the United States. Shooting for the public before an expected winter surge — a possible additional wave of infections and deaths — meant there was not enough time for repeated efficacy human studies. The FDA has depended on mouse studies similar to what it uses to develop annual flu vaccines, which, like the coronavirus, evolve too quickly for extensive testing before each flu season.
So, for those unconvinced by the effectiveness of the booster, there is also no accurate measure of how well the latest booster protects others. Opponents of Fordham’s policy spoke out Chronicle in their opinion, the benefit is zero. (Relying on some possible but unknown benefit “strains the argument,” Tampio said.) If the current boost works like previous ones, it could reduce human risk from being infected with the coronavirus and then disappear within a few months.
Fordham, a Jesuit university in New York, hypothesizes that the bivalent enhancer protects the community by reducing infections. “You reduce illness by reducing the number of people who get sick. If people don’t get sick, if people don’t get the virus, they don’t pass it on,” Fordham spokesman Bob Howe said. “Even if all we did was reduce hospitalizations and mortality, it would be worth it.”
Fordham does not have a medical school or the same deep bench of infectious disease experts as some colleges, including some that also is bivalent–amplifier mandates. In Fordham’s situation, it makes sense to follow the CDC’s recommendation, Howe said.
It is not clear how widespread opposition to the vaccination requirement is among Fordham faculty. The university has about 2,200 adjunct and full-time instructors, Howe said. John J. Drummond, professor of philosophy and president of the Faculty Senate, said he has heard from colleagues on both sides. When asked for his personal view, he said that he sees the debate between the right to bodily autonomy and the need for collective health. “My inclination is always to come down on the side of public health and safety,” he said.
English professor Glenn Hendler said he was “proud” of the university’s vaccine stance and other anti-Covid measures it has taken in the past. “It’s a sign of caring for me,” he said.
No one has polled the faculty on this topic. The anti-mandate side is more organized and vocal, but there’s more reason, Drummond said: “The mandate is in place.”