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CSULB students express mixed reactions to proposed fall vaccine mandate

After President Jane Close Conoley confirmed in a campus-wide email that Long Beach State intends to require campus-goers to be immunized with the COVID-19 vaccine this fall, students have expressed mixed feelings for this policy.

Conoley’s email came after the California State University and University of California systems announced their plans to enforce vaccinations for campus activities once the Food and Drug Administration formally approves the COVID-19 vaccines, as the Pfizer-BioNTech, Johnson & Johnson and Moderna vaccines are currently under emergency use authorization. CSULB is part of a 33-university coalition pushing for this mandate.

The student response has been varied, with many expressing enthusiasm for a safer campus but skepticism toward the policy’s implementation.

Omar Guillen, a third-year business major, found out about the requirement through a Discord chat before receiving the official email from Conoley and was “flustered.”

“They just made the announcement out of nowhere,” Guillen said.

Previously, the university had claimed that, due to legal bounds, it would strongly encourage vaccination but not require it. However, Housing and Residential Life later established that residents would need to submit their proof of vaccination by June 15 in order to live on campus in the fall. Housing officials maintained that this mandate was permitted as living on campus is a choice for students.

Despite being vaccinated, Guillen found the news “weird at first” and still feels conflicted.

“It’s probably a good thing to implement for people that want to go on campus,” Guillen said. “If they try to have everyone [get the vaccine], even though they are relatively safe, it’s a bit of a gray area, I feel.”

Guillen finds the lack of communication between the university administration and the student body, regarding pandemic related policies, “ironic.”

For Jasmine Vasquez, a third-year psychology major, the news of a vaccine mandate to return to campus this fall was great news amid “a whole year of doom and gloom.”

“Something that may speed up getting back to normal is really warranted, in my opinion,” Vasquez said. “When I saw that, there wasn’t really a thought of outcry for me. It was only hope [and excitement] that things were returning to the way they once were.”

Vasquez is fully vaccinated and eager to return to campus, though she understands that some may not want to get vaccinated as well as the consequences that come with that choice.

“If you don’t want to take it, you don’t have to,” Vasquez said. “You can just stay at home, but with that you have to accept that you have to be a responsible person, [and] taking the vaccine is a step towards responsibility.”

For the fall 2021 semester, 47% of classes are projected to have an in-person option, according to a campus update. This way, most students can choose to continue their education remotely and are given the ability to coordinate with their academic advisors to accommodate for their needs.

Karyme Calderon, a second-year kinesiology fitness major, is already vaccinated but feels that the students should “have a right” to choose if they want to be vaccinated.

“Whatever their reasoning may be, I just feel like that’s solely based on the students and their views and outtake on the vaccine,” Calderon said. “I felt like it shouldn’t be pressured upon the students.”

Calderon doesn’t want the new requirement to “add stress” to students not yet vaccinated who hope to return to campus for in-person learning.

As of April 21, all Americans over the age of 16 are eligible for vaccination, and at CSULB, all students are eligible to get vaccinated on-campus.

Calderon also emphasized the need to “still take precautions” when returning to in-person learning, regardless of whether all students are vaccinated.

According to Conoley, the mandate is not yet official as the CSU and UC systems await FDA approval.

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