WATERTOWN, N.Y. (WWTI) — All students enrolled in the State University of New York education system were required to receive at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine by September 27.
As this deadline has come and gone, universities are now making adjustments both on, and off-campus. This includes Jefferson Community College located in Watertown, New York.
According to SUNY Jefferson Vice President of Student Engagement and Retention Dr. Corey Campbell, over 90% of its student population is now either fully vaccinated or has received at least one dose of the vaccine. This rate was logged one week after the vaccine deadline on October 4. However, Campbell said this effort did not come without questions from the students.
This included questions such as “which vaccination is required,” “are all students required to get the vaccination,” “can students continue education remotely if they don’t want to get the vaccination.”
Dr. Campbell said JCC’s “goal was twofold. One, to keep the campus as safe as possible. And then two, to ensure that all students could continue their education, even if they decided not to get the vaccine.”
Now JCC is taking its next steps in following mandates issued by New York State and SUNY. According to the mandate, those students who remain unvaccinated are prohibited from being on SUNY campuses. This does not apply to students taking in-person classes who have an approved medical or religious accommodation.
At this time, valid exemptions accepted by SUNY include those derived from medical or religious reasonings, Dr. Campbell said that the college is working with exempt students to provide both classes and services remotely.
“They would still have access to any services that can be offered remotely,” Dr. Campbell said. “But as part of the mandate, all SUNY students would have to be fully vaccinated in order to come to campus or take on-campus classes.”
Campbell also confirmed that the next steps also include unenrolling students who failed to comply with the vaccination mandates. He considered this option the college’s “last resort” after attempting to contact some students via letters, phone calls and text messages.
“Unfortunately we have had to unenroll some students based on just not getting any kind of [vaccination] information,” Dr. Campbell noted. “But again, our goal is to work with students as best as possible.”
In reflection on another “different” start to the school year at SUNY Jefferson, Dr. Campbell then applauded the students and employees. He said since the start of the pandemic, the University has retained a COVID-19 infection rate of under 1%. Dr. Campbell continued to urge the community to continue following precautions this fall.
“The more people that are vaccinated, the more that we’re social distancing, the more that we’re wearing our mask, ideally then COVID will start to dissipate and that’s the whole goal,” he stated. “Nobody wants to wear a mask, nobody wants to do these things, however, it is necessary to be safe. And so the more we do this, then ideally we can get on the other side of COVID and get back to doing the things that we really want.”
Guidance has yet to be released for upcoming SUNY semesters. However, SUNY Jefferson has opened enrollment for its late Fall 2020 and Winter 2020 semesters. A full class and program offering can be found on Jefferson Community College’s website.
The mandate for SUNY students to receive the vaccine was issued after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration fully authorized the Pfizer BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine on August 23 for all individuals ages 16 and older.