Students react to Fresno State not requiring COVID-19 vaccine

Two Fresno State students leave the Kennel Bookstore on March 23, 2021, at Fresno State. (Kameron Thorn / The Collegian)

As the university approaches the end of the spring 2021 semester and prospects of reopening for fall 2021 remain optimistic, students are mixed on the merits of making the COVID-19 vaccine a mandatory requirement for reentry should the option become available. 

Cynthia Robinson, a Fresno State graduate student in the Clinical Rehab and Mental Health Counseling program, believes that the decision to take the COVID-19 vaccine should ultimately fall upon the decision of the student and faculty members. 

“I ultimately think it’s their decision. They have to do their research and decide if that’s the best decision for them. Not looking at fake Facebook memes and articles, but actually go to CDC websites,” Robinson said.

Fresno State currently does not require students to take it as a requirement for the upcoming fall 2021 fall semester. 

Fresno State Interim President Saúl Jiménez-Sandoval said that Fresno State cannot obligate students to receive the vaccine until it is reclassified for non-emergency usage with the addition of authorization from the California State University chancellor during the Jan. 27 ASI meeting

CSU Chancellor Joseph I. Castro said during a virtual press conference on Feb. 8 that the CSU system is focused on inspiring participation when it comes to COVID-19 vaccines but not looking to require it currently.

“I think that I want to avoid any legal issues as it relates to requiring people to be vaccinated, especially with vaccines that have an emergency authorization,” Castro said. “So we’re going to do our very best to inspire participation and keep people as safe as possible on the campuses.”

A student gets their temperature checked outside of the Joyal Administration Building at Fresno State on March 24, 2021. (Kameron Thorn/The Collegian)

Having taken the Pfizer vaccine, Robinson said she feels confident in her ability to make a safe return to the Fresno State campus for the upcoming fall 2021 semester as a result of her experience in the healthcare field. 

“Yes, I will feel comfortable going back. I mean, I have my vaccine, I have been around people with COVID and working in the healthcare field… I think people who haven’t received the vaccine or [who are] not in the health field will have more of a hard time dealing with that decision,” Robinson said.

Kinesiology major Sandeep Johal said she does not believe the university can reopen safely with students and faculty members who have not taken the COVID-19 vaccine due to how rapidly the virus can spread.

“Well, because this virus is very fast spreading and if campus opens up, everyone will be meeting each other and traveling. So, I don’t think it will be safe unless everyone has the vaccine otherwise people can still get infected,” Johal said.

Johal lives with her grandparents and said she would not like to become a carrier of the COVID-19 virus should she have to return to campus during the fall 2021 semester even though she has taken the COVID-19 vaccine.

Johal would like to return to in-person classes on campus should the conditions improve and are deemed safe; however, due to her current living arrangements, she said she cannot risk potentially exposing her grandparents to the coronavirus.

“I am constantly stepping outside of the house running errands, and I live at home with my grandparents, so I wanted to take every precaution possible with them. If it is safe then yes I plan to return to in-person classes,” said Johal.

The COVID-19 pandemic and the subsequent vaccine proved to be a more complicated issue for students like kinesiology major Carson Odneal who have pre-existing conditions. 

Odneal remains cautious about the vaccine due to how his body may potentially react to it.

“I’m not able to take it due to how my body reacts with heavy metals, but it might change once it is no longer in emergency status… I’m generally not careless with where I am in regards to COVID due to living with elderly family, and I’m more of a shut-in,” Odneal said.

Despite this, Odneal plans to attend in-person classes should it be safe for him and his fellow classmates. If available, Odneal is considering opting for online classes should the situation improve with his family. 

Currently, the university is relying on the majority of Fresno State students and staff to receive their COVID-19 vaccination by the upcoming fall 2021 semester to ensure a safe transition to in-person classes.

The university is hoping that roughly 85% of the student, faculty and staff population will have taken the vaccine in order to establish herd immunity. 

“The best-case scenario [is that] we have herd immunity, and approximately 85% of the population is vaccinated… therefore we return to campus and what would be then protocols we follow at that time,” Jiménez-Sandoval said. 

Prospects to achieve this goal remain high at Fresno State as the COVID-19 vaccine rollout was faster than initially expected with an estimated 200 million Americans to be vaccinated by the end of the first 100 days of President Joe Biden’s term of office, according to statements made by the president.

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