Opinion | It’s time to implement vaccine mandates

Vaccines protect students, the state Board of Regents must mandate them.



Syringes for the COVID-19 vaccine lay on a counter at the VA Medical Center in Iowa City on Tuesday, Dec. 22, 2020. The center received the Modern vaccine for its employees.

Shahab Khan, Opinions Columnist

To save lives, the state Board of Regents must disregard obtuse state laws and implement a vaccine mandate at the University of Iowa.

The normal semester that many of us anticipated did not arrive. The delta variant has been raging through the state and case rates in Iowa have started to creep back up. The state is averaging about 1,265 cases a day, which is a similar rate to last fall.

The university has been so far spared the delta onslaught, only 101 students and 59 faculty members have tested positive for COVID-19 — but that’s only the reported number of cases. With the return of football season and 69,000 fans, the university could soon become a petri dish for COVID-19 to fester.

Which is why the Board of Regent’s vaccine policy is so befuddling. Vaccines have proven to be the most effective and efficient deterrent against COVID-19. Epidemiologists have been saying for months now that if the country wants to return to normalcy, a vast majority of the population must be vaccinated.

Unfortunately, when taking a closer look at the board’s policy, it becomes clear that it is beholden to the whims of the state government. Iowa Republicans, who control the state house and governor’s mansion, have been very vocal against the implementation of a vaccine mandate. In May, Gov. Kim Reynolds signed a law that would cut funding from state institutions that required customers to prove they had received a COVID-19 vaccine.

Due to this vaccine mandate ban, the board argues it cannot force students to be vaccinated because of the state law.

This line of reasoning exposes the cowardice of the board’s policy as they are more interested in pleasing politicians rather than protecting students and faculty.

Instead, the board should look at the actions of other universities that have decreed that students and faculty be vaccinated in spite of harmful state laws.

Despite the fact that Indiana passed laws prohibiting vaccine passports, Indiana University required students to provide proof of vaccination in order to attend classes in the fall. When several students sued and took their case to the Supreme Court, the Court dismissed the case, upholding the university’s decision as completely legal.

They justified their reasoning for siding with Indiana University by pointing to a previous U.S. Supreme Court decision which found that public entities have the right to impose vaccine mandates.

Furthermore, if the board is concerned about funding cuts, the Biden Administration has already offered to step in and provide financial help to schools trying to enact COVID-19 mitigations in states hostile to them. In short, there is not actually anything really stopping the board from implementing a vaccine mandate other than their own pusillanimity.

Iowa City and the university have been fortunate enough to not face the destruction of the delta variant. Despite this, if the state Board of Regents thinks that this is going to last forever, they are sorely mistaken.

The best way to take preventative measures and protect the student body is to require students to have the COVID-19 vaccine.

Even against the highly contagious delta strain, the vaccines have been proven to provide strong defense against transmission, hospitalization, and death. It’s time for those in charge of protecting the student body to stop putting politics over lives.

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.