Students express concern over the vaccine mandate going into effect in the spring. Illustration by Ysabel Berger.

Editor’s Note: This article was updated on Thursday, Sept. 16, 2021. A previous version of the article incorrectly labeled a source’s statement as false. Utah Valley University’s website lists healthy diets, sleep and exercise as “protective measures” to “decrease … chances of contracting coronavirus.”

“You do not need the vaccine to attend UVU” was written on the shirts of three students standing outside of the Student Life and Wellness Center on Sept. 8. They had gathered there intending to raise awareness of the imminent vaccination mandate. They listed three different exemptions that people might have to avoid getting the vaccine: medical, religious and personal.

On Aug. 30 Utah Valley University announced that students will be required to have their COVID-19 vaccine to take in-person classes, beginning in the spring semester. 

“Ultimately, the only person that knows what’s best for you, it’s going to be you,” said Ethan Hay, a sophomore studying communication. “You understand your body better than others.” 

The group clarified they are not anti-vax but want people to know their options and have the freedom to choose for themselves. At one point they mention that UVU “has never required vaccines before … and it’s just because of the situation we’re in.” 

While this is true for general admission, students enrolling in the nursing program or the physician assistant program, among others, are required to meet vaccinations and immunization standards for several contagious illnesses. It is also relevant to note that since its founding in 1941, this is the first pandemic of this magnitude that UVU has had to endure — the most recent epidemic to affect Utah was the H1N1 virus (“swine flu”), which killed 12,469 nationally, as opposed to over 650,000 deaths from COVID-19.

“We don’t want to have the school make those decisions for people,” said Niklas Staernerz, a senior studying criminal justice. “There are many students who don’t know about the exemptions … that the school has to abide by.” 

Staernerz mentioned the NOVAVAX vaccine being developed without the mRNA technology, using a more traditional technology previously employed in different vaccines. He said one of the reasons he has been cautious himself was because the mRNA technology is newer. 

“It hasn’t been tried in vaccines before,” Staernerz said. “Many people I’ve talked to now, they’re thinking about switching institutions.”

The group also advocated for preventative methods to keep your body healthy, and reduce the risk of contracting COVID-19. They listed physical health, including diet, sleep, and exercise as ways to prevent serious illness. Healthy habits are not guaranteed to prevent serious illness or even death, but UVU does list these measures as ways to reduce one’s chances of contracting the disease. The CDC recommends being vaccinated as the best way to prevent illness and does not make any mention of healthy lifestyles preventing the coronavirus.

When asked about masks as a preventative measure, Staernerz said, “We don’t really have a stance on anything except having this mandate be taken away.”

More information about UVU’s vaccine mandate can be found here.

Ethan Hay is a volunteer for The Review. His opinions do not reflect the beliefs of the newspaper or any other individuals therein. 

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