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Michigan Universities Meet Fall Vaccine Policies

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BY ANNA LIZ NICHOLS

LANSING, Michigan (AP) – Three of Michigan's 15 public universities have announced COVID-19 vaccine mandates, while others are evaluating plans or implementing other strategies to increase immunizations among students. .

The University of Michigan Dearborn campus will require everyone on campus to provide weekly proof of vaccination or negative tests. The University of Michigan at Ann Arbor and Oakland University will require immunizations for students who want to live on campus.

But hundreds of UofM instructors on the Ann Arbor campus have signed a petition seeking a campus-wide COVID. -19 vaccination mandate and qualifies the school's current vaccination plan as "absurd."

That petition, which began circulating Thursday and has been signed by more than 800 professors, lecturers and other instructors, notes that students who live in private homes or students who commute to the Ann Arbor campus are just as likely to be spread the virus.

Student government representative Carla Voigt said a safe return in the fall is possible, but the university must educate and advocate for vaccines. She said the university got off to a good start by opening a vaccination clinic at The Big House.

People of color, specifically Black Americans, have been disproportionately impacted by COVID-19 economically, in case counts and now slower vaccination rates. UofM students are not exempt from these challenges, said student body president Nithya Arun, and the student government is responding with a proposal from the People of Color Impact Task Force.

A study created by the student government earlier this year asked 8,000 students about their COVID-19 plans and needs. Of the 1,027 responses, approximately 20% of participants who identified as black said they would not receive the vaccine, compared with approximately 3% of students who identified as white.

The easiest and safest way for schools to have a regular fall semester is to vaccinate as many students as possible, said Bob Murphy, policy director for the Michigan State University Association.

"I think some colleges will continue to evaluate whether a mandate is needed, but I think they would all prefer that students go out and take care of themselves and members of their community getting the vaccine of their own choosing," Murphy said.

Wayne State University offered students a $ 10 credit to their student account that can be used for Grubhub orders by submitting proof of vaccination.

Mannat K. Bedi, director of community affairs for the Wayne State Student Senate, said that even without a vaccination mandate, students who earn a high reward for something that already benefited them made the program effective.

"I personally will always go to certain campus events because it's fun, but there are also prizes and things like that," Bedi said. "Other schools should do it because it definitely motivates students to get vaccinated."

The state of Wayne also implemented a flu vaccination mandate in the fall to give the campus a better chance to combat the severe mix of the COVID-19 pandemic and a flu outbreak. Of the faculty, staff and students who came to campus, 94% provided proof of immunization, said university spokesman Matt Lockwood.

Michigan State University has not made a final decision on vaccines and is evaluating different ways to attract students should receive a vaccine, spokesman Dan Olsen said. The university has operated a clinic off the Pavilion campus, which has provided the university community and the public with nearly 5,000 doses.

Olsen said the university is evaluating data from the MSU National Standards Center, which conducted surveys of students. 'Vaccine perceptions and going back to school to learn what drives student vaccination rates.

The University's National Health Assessment, which the center administers every few years to survey students' health habits and behaviors, looked at COVID-19 vaccines and found that 81% of MSU students out of 905 respondents said that they wanted the COVID-19 vaccine in March.

When the same group was asked in April what "getting back to normal" meant to them, the first three responses in order were: Attend face-to-face classes; interact with others without the safety precautions of COVID-19; and attend sporting events.

The center's executive director, Dennis Martell, said the results were a bit surprising.

"We underestimate the desire of students to get back to normal," Martell said. “They want to go back to face-to-face classes, be able to socialize and attend events on campus.”

Of the 12% who said in March that they were unsure about getting a vaccine – those who indicated in the survey that it would be okay for the center to contact them – they will be offered a $ 5 credit from Starbucks as proof of vaccination. Martell said the university will continue to monitor whether the incentive has an impact on the group and might consider implementing a similar program for other students.

Martell said that what really drives vaccines at MSU is the desire of students to reconnect with each of them. others.

"It's about those people who really want to have experience to be in the classroom," Martell said. "I will never say that the Spartan spirit is better than any other university, but there is a true Spartan spirit of 'together we will'".

Anna Liz Nichols is a member of the staff for the Associated Press / Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on uncovered topics.

Photography – University of Michigan Dearborn

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