The spread of COVID 19 in youth and its consequences are ongoing global issues following the massive vaccination of older people in several countries and the increased incidence in the younger age group. With registration for admission to universities already open, colleges and universities are creating safer campus spaces for students facing new political and logistical challenges.

An article published in the Washington Post (June 23, 2021), entitled “Colleges want students to get a coronavirus vaccine. But they’re split on requiring the shots” reports that several universities will require students and employees to get vaccinated, with others strongly encouraging, but not mandating, vaccination.

Earlier this year, we published a special report about the legal and ethical aspects of mandatory vaccination in the US (read HERE). In relation to this particular issue, we wrote, “However, the evolution of this duty, stemming from the rights to privacy, autonomy and intimacy in the legal conscience of citizens, has resulted in circumscribing it to certain groups. These groups are, above all, schoolchildren, although some States (few) allow exceptions. Finally, the successful vaccination rate, due to the Biden administration’s health policy, has resulted in the fact that, as we know, mandatory vaccination has not been implemented.”

The eventual use of students as experimental subjects

In this respect, an opinion piece published in the American newspaper The Wall Street Journal (June 14, 2021) considers that the university vaccine mandates present an ethical dilemma. The authors say “·The FDA has issued authorizations for three Covid vaccines, but it hasn’t fully approved any of them. Students at Notre Dame (for example) resume classes on Aug. 23, and freshmen arrive on campus on Aug. 18. The Pfizer vaccine—first in line for approval—requires three weeks before the booster shot, so it would have to be approved by July 28 for students to meet the school’s deadline without making themselves experimental subjects. Pfizer applied to the FDA May 7 for ‘priority review’, a process that usually takes six months.”

Bioethical opinion

This added problem has led several universities to establish an opt-out system without mandatory imposition. From our point of view, this measure properly respects the autonomy and intimacy of staff and students in the current scenario, balancing successful vaccination rates and the potential risk for youth of vaccines that are not yet fully approved







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