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Still haven’t received the COVID-19 vaccine? Here's what you should know

Photo by Agência Brasília, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Photo by Agência Brasília, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Are you thinking about getting the COVID-19 vaccine, but you’re still not sure about it?

As of now, Mercer University does not require students to receive the vaccine. However, with the Delta variant at large and the Omnicron variant’s rise, college students can now receive the booster shots to hinder any risk of catching these variants. This ultimately makes the jobs of those who have not received any form of the vaccine harder, and during college, there are already enough things to worry about.

Prior to the authorization for the release of vaccines to Mercer on March 24, safety protocols recommended by the Center for Disease Control were implemented, included masking, physical distancing, limited seating capacity in classrooms and virtual events.

In addition, surveillance testing took place to further identify cases and slow the spread.

“Surveillance testing involves randomly selecting students to identify asymptomatic and pre-symptomatic individuals to help mitigate campus outbreaks, the website stated in an Aug. 28, 2020 update. “Sampling will be stratified based upon risk categories. Voluntary testing of students will be included in the surveillance testing initiative.”

Vice Provost Kelly Reffitt discussed other ways that the campus prepared for the 2020-2021 in-person school year.

“By students and employees being very diligent about following the safety protocols, we have offered in-person instruction during the pandemic since the summer of 2020” Reffitt said. “Also, with the establishment of our own COVID-19 testing lab, we have been able to test students and employees frequently and process test results quicker than other testing sites.”

With these protocols in place last year, there were 148 positive cases within the first 10 weeks of the school year.

Positive cases hit single digits the fifth week of school but returned to double digits two weeks later. Cases hit triple digits within the first two weeks of the spring semester. When vaccines were authorized for distribution on March 24, the 11th week of the spring semester, positive cases hit zero 6 weeks later. With the start of the 2021-22 school year, protocols changed, and thus, cases did as well. 

According to the Updated Campus Vaccination and Mask Policy released at the start of this school year, vaccinations are not mandatory however unvaccinated students are required to wear masks to all classes and events. Faculty are subject to the requirement of masks in their class — ultimately, protocols are more lenient than they have been in the previous year.

With that being said, 232 positive cases were recorded on the Macon campus within the first 10 weeks of the fall 2021 semester. Positive cases hit single digits the 7th week of the semester, Oct. 1-7, and hit zero the 11th week, Oct. 29 - Nov. 4. 

According to Reffitt, 87% of the student body is fully vaccinated with the percentage still increasing.

With campus effectively taming the spread week by week, there are still a handful of students yet to receive the vaccine. For those still worried about their safety receiving the vaccine due to any medical reasons, it’s best to consult with a trusted healthcare professional before deciding to receive it. Any other questions about the safety of the vaccine can be found on the CDC's website.

“You’ll notice from the data that we are seeing fewer positive cases among students and employees,” Reffitt said. “In fact, positive cases have been in the single digits for the past six weeks."

Reffitt said students are encouraged to get vaccinated for COVID-19 and the flu. COVID-19 vaccination appointments are available on campus, and students can call 478-301-2696 to make an appointment for an on-campus flu shot.

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