WILMINGTON — Wilmington College will update its immunization requirement for all students, faculty and staff to now include a COVID-19 vaccination or approved exemption to be completed prior to the start of the Spring Semester in January.
WC joined more than 1,000 colleges and universities across the nation — and some 30 in Ohio — in issuing such changes as part of the institution’s protocols for “doing everything possible to reduce the spread of this virus and keep our community of students, faculty and staff safe,” according to WC President Trevor Bates.
Those with approved exemptions for medical or religious reasons would be exempt; however, they will be required to be tested on a weekly basis.
“Wilmington College is a special place that we all love and want to keep safe,” Bates added. “Our Quaker core values guide our commitment to the greater community where each of us makes sacrifices for the well-being of the whole.”
Bates noted that, at the beginning of the 2021-22 academic year, he announced the College’s COVID-19 protocols would be evaluated on a monthly basis. The school year started with fewer pandemic-related restrictions than had been employed last year and, ideally, the September evaluation would have resulted in the lifting of some restrictions. The numbers, which have been going in the wrong direction, informed the decision to require vaccinations.
The Delta variant of the COVID-19 virus has contributed to an increase in cases across the country, Ohio, Clinton County and WC’s campus. As of the week of Sept. 13, the College had 31 students and seven employees test positive this semester, with others in isolation or quarantine. Last year at that same time, it only had two students and one employee test positive. The College realized only 25 positive student cases from early January through its in-person Commencement, May 8.
The president noted the vaccine rate among the campus community is “below where we hoped to be at this point.” Faculty and staff members are vaccinated at rates of 88 and 72 percent, respectively, with students at only 35 percent. The Clinton County rate is 42 percent for vaccine-eligible citizens.
Bates said the decision to update its protocols is based on the “significant evidence” that the COVID-19 vaccines are safe and effective in both reducing the spread of the virus and in mitigating serious illness and death. The Food & Drug Administration (FDA) granted the Pfizer vaccine full approval in August and the other vaccines are seeing similar progress.
He also cited the federal government’s Sept. 9 mandate for all employers, including private colleges and universities, with more than 100 employees to either mandate the COVID-19 vaccine or have weekly testing.
To assist with the vaccination process, the College will be holding vaccine clinics on campus during October, November and December. WC has scheduled informational webinars for students, parents, faculty and staff on Sept. 23 with other sessions to be scheduled later in the fall.
“It is our highest priority to ensure a safe environment for all students and employees,” Bates said in his message to the campus community. “I thank each of you in advance for continuing to express our core values, particularly of ‘Respect for All Persons,’ by your individual actions to help keep our community safe.
“We will get through these challenging times, together.”