It was April 9 when Boston University President Robert Brown asked — nay, demanded — I take a shot. Being the good Scottish-Korean that I am, I said yes. And what kind of college student says no to a free shot?
The shot, of course, is a COVID-19 vaccine, which BU will require students to receive before the Fall 2021 semester. We will be free at last.
I believe in civil liberties and a person’s right to decide what goes in their body. But when your refusal to put something in your body means I have to be under quasi-house arrest and indefinitely stare into the blank void of Zoom, then you have infringed on my rights. I don’t tolerate that. I’m glad Brown put his foot down.
Many states require vaccination for diseases like meningitis for kids to enroll in public school. This requirement has been effective in creating herd immunity, which is when a disease dies out because a large enough portion of the population is immune to it, and the virus is unable to find a host.
Vaccine mandates have already been challenged all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, which ruled that the state’s interest in protecting public health trumps an individual’s right to not vaccinate their child on religious grounds. The state has an interest in keeping its people safe, and vaccine mandates are one of the least problematic ways to do that.
The anti-vaccination movement seems born from satire, but sadly it is not. Previously eradicated diseases have resurfaced thanks to people rejecting basic vaccinations.
The 1989-1991 measles outbreak was both preventable and expensive, costing $100 million in direct medical expenses. And even after measles was eliminated from the country by the year 2000, the disease saw a spike in 2014 and about another in 2019.
If vaccination campaigns in the 1980s would have been more effective, perhaps through stronger vaccine mandates, then the costly, recurring crisis may have been averted.
Mandatory vaccination does so many good things — how many other solutions make the public safer while decreasing cost? Vaccines really are a silver bullet.
If we get to herd immunity at BU and in the United States, and COVID-19 is eradicated, we can have our lives back. Still, some have their reasons — albeit bad ones — not to get vaccinated.
Some might have unsubstantiated doubts about the COVID-19 vaccines and their efficacy or side effects. Others might be too lazy to sign up for an appointment.
Fortunately, the campus requirement marries those two star-crossed lovers: self-interest and doing the right thing. We know the approved vaccines in the country effectively reduce transmission and drastically reduce the chance of hospitalization and death from COVID-19.
BU is doing both the right and smart thing by mandating the COVID-19 vaccine.
But I wonder how much of the University’s self-interest is wrapped up in this, too. BU’s enrollment deposit due date, aka Decision Day, is May 1. I feel the University wants accepted students to know BU is a good choice for the Fall because vaccine mandates might have the effect of making incoming freshmen’s college experience a normal one — one far different from the current gray hellscape.
But who cares? If this was a cold-blooded, profit-motivated decision, it makes no difference to me. At the end of the day, the odds of me having a real college experience again and going to class like a normal person are much better because of this policy.
I want my life back, and so does everybody else. Counting on my fellow students’ goodwill to wear face masks and follow social distancing guidelines does not cut it for me. Mandatory vaccinations are the only option at this point, but I still credit BU for a sensible mandate.
For now, I am cheering for an authoritarian measure carried out by the BU administration. Shots make me do crazy things.