Opinion | Iowa’s universities should require the COVID-19 vaccine

The best way to curb the spread of the virus and return to in person living and learning is to get the vaccine. Those able should be required to have it on campus.


Grace Smith

Student, Kyleigh Harm, receives the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine at the Iowa Memorial Union at the University of Iowa on Wednesday, April 21, 2021.

Yassie Buchanan, Opinions Colmunist

As the pandemic continues on with the spread of the new Delta variant, Iowa’s regent universities should require the vaccine. Of course, there should be exceptions in cases where it is a danger, or there are religious exemptions. However, the majority of students returning to campus who are able to receive one should have the vaccine.

The state has been limited in ways to mitigate the spread of the virus. Early this year, Gov. Kim Reynolds signed legislation banning COVID-19 “vaccine passports” in Iowa.

This bill stated that COVID-19 vaccine status cannot be put on state-issued or political ID cards. Businesses and government entities are also not allowed to require COVID-19 vaccines upon entry. However, it is up to employers’ discretion whether to require vaccines for employees. Healthcare facilities are also exempt from these guidelines.

Across the country, hundreds of schools have required the COVID-19 vaccine to return on campus, with health and religious exemptions in place. However, the only school in Iowa requiring the vaccine is Grinnell College.

Although there is nothing concrete barring Iowa’s regent universities from requiring vaccines, Iowa’s public universities have decided not to require vaccines for those returning to campus.

The safest way for us to return to in-person learning is for people able to receive the vaccine to have it.

Even with more people getting vaccinated, we are still seeing the spread of the virus. It is the best way for us to protect against the spread, especially with the new Delta variant. The Delta variant is between 40 and 60 percent more contractable than the Alpha variant found in Britain. The Alpha variant is already 30 to 50 percent more easily contractible than the original strain of the virus.

Although there is not a lot of research regarding the vaccine’s effectiveness against the Delta variant, a study in England found the Pfizer vaccine’s effectiveness did not reduce very much when the person only received one dose. The same results are expected for the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines.

Clearly, the best protection against the coronavirus is receiving full doses of one of the vaccines.

Even with schooling being mostly online last year, Iowa City saw concerning spikes in COVID-19 cases. Now that we are to return to in-person learning, it is a public health concern not to require vaccines for those who can take them. With the return of a “normal” semester, things like football games could end up being hot spots for contracting and spreading the virus.

Additionally, Iowa still has a long way to go with vaccinating Iowans. As of July 1, only 48 percent of Iowans have been fully vaccinated. Out of not even half of Iowans vaccinated, 56 percent of those vaccinated are ages 18 to 64.

We have seen how the virus has disproportionately ravaged minority communities across the country, as well. At one point, 17.3 percent of COVID-19 cases came from Hispanic or Latino populations, despite making up only 6 percent of Iowa’s population. Similarly, at this time, Black Iowans – who make up only 4 percent of the state’s population – accounted for 9.2 percent of positive cases.

Requiring the COVID-19 vaccine is essential in protecting minority and at-risk populations not just on campus, but within the Iowa City community, as well. We have experienced a lot of loss because of the pandemic. There is no reason high risk areas such as universities should not be mandating the vaccine for those who can take it.

Vaccine requirements are also nothing new to Iowa’s regent universities.

Iowa’s two state universities require proof of two measles, mumps, and rubella vaccinations. If this is allowed, they should also require COVID-19 vaccines for those able, as well.

It is a privilege to be able to get the COVID-19 vaccine for many people. Vulnerable people deserve to feel safe on campus, and vaccine requirements are the best way to limit the spread.

Columns reflect the opinions of the authors and are not necessarily those of the Editorial Board, The Daily Iowan, or other organizations in which the author may be involved.