Fordham vaccine mandate, New York’s toughest, sparks parent riots

A new COVID-19 vaccine booster mandate from Fordham University has sparked outrage among some parents, who are currently planning to express opposition to the campus protocol that was announced amid the easing of pandemic restrictions in New York City, where a degree of normality in life prevailed.

University vice president Marco Valera last month announced new COVID-19 guidelines that require all members of the Fordham community to be up to date on their vaccinations, including receiving the bivalent booster by November 1.

The bivalent boosters recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for people ages 12 and older are called “bivalent” because they protect against the original COVID-19 virus and the Omicron variant BA.4 should and BA.5.

“It’s especially important to be up to date on the vaccine because it’s more effective against new variants of the virus, helping us protect our community and function with less disruption,” Valera said in September The Fordham Observer.

Parents and students reject mandate

Over 400 people from the Fordham community, including students, parents and alumni, signed a letter that was received by news weekwhich they soon intend to send to the university to express their rejection of the new mandate.

“At first everyone hoped that they would make it [COVID vaccines] would work and unfortunately they don’t. And now with more recent studies and over time, we’ve seen that they come with risks, especially for young adults, and that’s really what we’re most concerned about, our children,” David Betten, one of the parents who signed the letter, told news week on the phone on Thursday, adding that the bivalent booster should be a recommendation, not a requirement.

A spokesman for Fordham University referred news week to an online university statement when asked to comment on the letter.

The university said in Wednesday’s statement on its website that COVID-19 “remains a public health threat” and that it still has the “capacity to close the Fordham campus.”

New York City has recorded an average of 1,945 daily positive COVID-19 cases for the past week, according to the city’s health department, which added that average daily case counts have remained stable over the period.

Meanwhile, the parents argued in the letter that Fordham’s new COVID-19 second-booster mandate is one of the toughest pandemic policies in a city where restrictions like masking when using the transit system have already been relaxed.

Fordham's vaccine mandate, New York's toughest, sparks criticism
Pictured above is the Lincoln Center campus of Fordham University as New York City continues Phase 4 of reopening after restrictions were imposed on August 22, 2020 to slow the spread of COVID-19. A new university vaccine-booster mandate has sparked outrage among some parents who plan to voice their opposition to the campus protocol.
Photo by Alexi Rosenfeld/Getty Images

They also said that Fordham was the only Jesuit university with a dual-value booster mandate and made several other arguments in the letter, including that COVID-19 vaccines do not prevent virus transmission or prevention and that boosters pose health risks to Fordham students represent.

“I know my child will not have it. Hopefully the campus or university will change the policy by then [November 1]’ said Betten news weekadding that the university said it informed parents of the mandate, but the update was “not highlighted anywhere”.

“At the start of the school year, they made the requirements and everyone that’s on campus met the requirements,” Betten added, noting that parents were surprised the announcement came mid-semester.

However, the university said in its statement on Wednesday that the mandate for the second refresher on Sept. 27 was shared with all students, faculty, staff and parents, adding that Fordham has been telling the university community and parents about the likelihood of this since April updated informed .

“New students and their parents received an email on June 1st, 2022 regarding mandatory vaccinations: ‘Fordham University requires all students taking face-to-face classes, living in university housing or entering campus for any reason to be up to date their COVID-19 vaccines, which currently include a booster shot,” and on the linked page, “It may be necessary to request a second booster shot for eligible individuals for the 2022-2023 academic year.” July, August 23 and August 29 received similar messages,” the university said in the statement.

Consequences of the new mandate

It’s not clear exactly when the letter challenging the mandate will be sent to the university, but Zachary Visconti, a student at the university’s Gabelli School of Business, said news week in an email Thursday that more people are coming forward and saying they want to help oppose the mandate.

Visconti also said a student-only letter will be distributed to the school’s president early next week to allow students to sign against the requirement.

“…We’re starting with a letter to express our disagreement with the mandate, and we’ll act on Fordham’s response from there,” Visconti said.

However, Visconti clarified that students who defy the mandate “are not anti-vaccination” they just want the second booster shot to be treated as a recommendation, not a mandate, under CDC guidelines.

“If students refuse to get the second refresher by November 1, there isn’t much they can do to enter campus. You can apply for a medical or religious exemption, but these have been denied in the past and are said to be very difficult to obtain. Also, that students have no choice but to drop out mid-semester with little to no refund because we’re so far into the semester,” added the Fordham student.

Visconti also spoke about the implications of the mandate, saying, “Fordham requiring the booster for all students, faculty, staff and guests wishing to enter campus poses a problem when it comes to outside providers who do not need it , or about opposing sports teams and their spectators who don’t need it either.

“Up to this point, the school has become progressively more lenient with its COVID policies, and this mandate is a 180-degree turn from its actions over the past few months,” Visconti added.

news week asked Fordham University and health experts Basmattee Boodram, associate professor of community health sciences at the University of Illinois Chicago, and Stuart Cohen, professor of infectious diseases at UC Davis, for comment. Fordham vaccine mandate, New York’s toughest, sparks parent riots

Rick Schindler

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