Since the very beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic in March of 2020, the entire world has been living in fear. Thinking back to almost two years ago, uncertainty was surely at an all-time high, with mental health ultimately being neglected and many not knowing how to respond or who to trust.
To add to the uneasiness, the virus began rapidly spreading during the midst of the 2020 presidential election. Every day, millions of Americans would sit in front of their televisions and watch the daily COVID-19 task force press conferences. Viewed on the television were former President Donald Trump, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Anthony Fauci, MD and White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator Deborah Birx, speaking out in unison on the case numbers and new information, which had been discovered regarding COVID-19.
Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, Americans have acted with diligence and determination by following strict safety regulations. Some of these include lockdowns, the closings of restaurants, retail and entertainment businesses, as well as limited travel. Under the lead of Trump’s administration, the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines were approved after nine long months, becoming readily available for any eligible American who wanted one.
Despite the gravity of such a great medical achievement, since the very beginning vaccines have been polarized, acting as a political tool being used by both Democrats and Republicans.
Someone’s “vaccine status” is often an uncomfortable question to be asked now, as it can lead to negative and political assumptions being made about a particular student. If one admits to being unvaccinated, many students will then follow up with more questions such as, “Why are you not vaccinated?,” ”Are you anti-vaccine?,” “Do you not believe in science?” and “Who did you vote for?”
These are expected questions due to the extreme political polarization surrounding COVID-19 vaccines, but that still does not make them okay to ask. The problem with such questions is that they further enable current negative stigmas surrounding those who decide not to get vaccinated. These negative stigmas feed into blame of those who are unvaccinated for the continuing of the pandemic.
President Joe Biden himself is seen fanning the flames of such negative stigmas when he says, “For the unvaccinated, we are looking at a winter of severe illness and death.” Additionally, in a White House speech, he declared, “This is a pandemic of the unvaccinated.” These kinds of blanketed assumptions are accusatory, vague and flat-out not true. The President of the United States targeting those who are unvaccinated is unhelpful and extremely polarizing. If those types of thoughts are coming from the President then Americans are sure to follow.
While the President of the United States continues to underhandedly blame the unvaccinated through statements such as the ones above, this sense of fault fosters widespread negative feelings of anger, judgment and frustration towards unvaccinated individuals. Unvaccinated Americans are constantly being blamed for the rise in positive cases.
With the spread of the Omicron variant, it is evident that both those who are vaccinated and unvaccinated are testing positive for COVID-19. Therefore, it seems as though one’s vaccine status is not as important to know as some used to believe.
As part of the move-in process for the Spring 2022 semester, Fairfield University sent out multiple emails promoting booster clinics, sharing mandatory vaccine surveys, and initiating double mask mandates.
This begs the question, why do students need to report to the school their private medical choices? If many of those who are getting diagnosed with COVID-19 currently are double vaccinated and boosted, why is the school still continuing to promote booster shots? Questions of vaccination status should be between a student, their family and their healthcare provider because it is not anyone else’s business if an individual chooses to get a vaccine.
Medical privacy and freedom, as well as respect for an individual’s choice need to continue to be upheld and valued, even amid the COVID-19 outbreak. The United States of America is the land of the free and we cannot let the spread of COVID-19 take our American rights from us. Receiving the COVID-19 vaccine should be an individual’s choice and Americans need to respect that in order to move on as a country.
It is safe to say that Fairfield University’s campus currently serves as a safe space for all students, in regards to the present state of the COVID-19 pandemic. Students are friendly, approachable and most of the time unbothered by others’ choices such as vaccine statuses and I hope it stays this way.