UD president explains decision not to mandate COVID-19 vaccinations

The decision was first announced by the Path Forward Team on Sept. 1. Photo of UD President Eric Spina.

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Zoë Hill | News Editor

UD President Eric Spina does not believe a campus-wide COVID-19 vaccine mandate would substantially benefit the university.

Spina addressed the university staff and faculty Tuesday in an email to explain his decision to not mandate the shot at this time. The Path Forward Team officially announced Sept. 1 that a mandate would not be issued due to the current protocols and vaccination levels on campus. Many other Ohio universities, including Ohio State and the University of Cincinnati, made the call to mandate the vaccine that same week. 

“I care deeply about the health and safety of our students and all of you, I believe fiercely in the importance of vaccinations in general, and I am highly confident in the effectiveness and safety of the COVID-19 vaccines to limit the spread of COVID-19 and protect against the worst outcomes,” Spina said. 

“If I believed that mandating the COVID-19 vaccine would truly increase the vaccination rate, we would do so, but I just don’t believe that it will, given the totality of the circumstances in which we are operating,” he added.  

He said his decision was “not a political or ideological statement,” but rather a choice backed by the current campus circumstances. 

Spina noted that 72% of students, faculty and staff at UD are vaccinated, and introducing a mandate right now might be insignificant in changing that number. The university would have to allow for exemptions based on religious, philosophical and medical reasons in order to comply with its immunization policies.  

The president also noted the amount of staff that would be needed to implement a mandate. Based on his belief that a mandate would only produce a small increase in the total number of the community vaccinated, Spina said it is not logistical to reallocate the staff in this way. 

Robin Oldfield, associate vice president of audit, risk and compliance and chief risk officer, leads the Path Forward Team, which advises Spina and the university on COVID-related issues. The team is closely monitoring the status of the pandemic and its effects on the campus community. 

“Throughout the pandemic we have adjusted our approach based on current conditions, evolving scientific information and the guidance of our medical advisory panel and public health officials, Oldfield said. “At the current time, we are not broadly mandating vaccinations but may consider it in the future if necessary.” 

Oldfield said the Path Forward Team is concerned about the spread of COVID-19 and the emerging variants, but they are continuing outreach efforts in lieu of a campus-wide vaccine mandate. 

Plans for a number of pop-up vaccination events are in the works at the university, along with communication campaigns to spread accurate information about the vaccine and the pandemic. UD will host a teach-in Wednesday headed up by faculty members that includes a vaccination clinic and a student-run panel as part of its outreach efforts.

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