This decision would widen inequities
After reading “Two-year colleges to not require vaccines” (Metro, April 22), I am disheartened that Massachusetts’ 15 community colleges say they will not require vaccination as a condition of in-person education this fall. This failure to offer a safe learning environment to their students will only magnify existing inequities.
Residents from Lawrence and other poorer communities have already disproportionately borne the brunt of the COVID-19 pandemic. Choosing to work through the pandemic at in-person jobs rather than staying at home, unemployed and starving, has consequently yielded disastrous health outcomes for workers, their families, and their neighborhoods. Now students face essentially the same Hobson’s choice — between nonmatriculated safety at home and the peril of COVID-19 exposure on campus.
By the time classes start in the fall, vaccines will be readily available to all. The community colleges can be proactive in making vaccinations accessible to their students, thereby promoting a higher level of protection to all residents in their communities.
It is boneheaded to think of the vaccination as an “unnecessary burden.” Compare that with contracting COVID-19 and spreading disease to their families, especially for the immunocompromised or religiously exempt students who cannot be vaccinated. If the choice is made to offer some remote learning, it should be done because it is the best learning option, not because community colleges won’t commit to a safe learning environment.
It is not random that New England’s elite four-year colleges and universities are choosing to protect their students and their educations with vaccination mandates. Community colleges must do the same.
These schools should make themselves vaccine centers
Our community college students, many of whom are handling the pressures of family, work, and commuting, are the very people we should be supporting by making the COVID-19 vaccinations accessible to all on their respective college campuses. This would do more to create equity and fairness in public health for all the communities involved.
As to the comment that vaccine rates, even for more common illnesses such as measles and chickenpox, have traditionally been low on community college campuses, let’s make sure that the schools’ infirmaries are equipped with vaccines so that they follow best practices for public health. These facilities could provide vaccine clinics to help their students reach maximum protection for all of the common diseases. This would help the individuals, families, and communities.
Let us make Massachusetts a leader in helping deserving communities get the support they need for getting vaccinated.
Ruth Peedin Fields