SGA senators seek to mandate vaccine for fall semester

Several Student Government Association (SGA) senators are pushing for COVID-19 vaccines to be required for students who are returning to Suffolk University this fall.

The move comes after the university announced a projected return to in-person classes for the Fall 2021 semester last month.

A resolution that has not yet been voted on by the senate requests that the university mandate COVID-19 vaccines for all students who come to campus during the 2021 and 2022 academic years. Under the resolution, students could be exempt from the rule if they have medical or religious reasons.

SGA senators Marissa Kearney, Stephen Merrick, Kostas Lukas and Vice President-elect Stephen Rykola co-authored the resolution and published a survey for Suffolk students and faculty to share feedback on the issue.

“The data was collected to support the recommendation put forth by the resolution,” Kearney said.

This survey went live on the official SGA Instagram page a week and a half ago, and has received 306 responses. According to the survey’s results as of April 6, 42.81% of respondents support mandatory vaccination, 30.39% said they would support one that allowed exemptions for medical and religious reasons, and 25% did not support mandatory vaccination.

The proposed resolution to require students receive the COVID-19 vaccine in the fall. (SGA)

Jessica Ke, a freshman who lived on campus throughout this academic year, said she will not feel safe in the fall without the proposed resolution in place.

“I personally don’t feel as safe being completely in person in the fall because not everyone will be vaccinated by then,” said Ke. ”I feel like the school should mandate the vaccine as it will be available for everyone, which means we can help eliminate the virus.”

Sebastian Royo, vice president of international affairs and chairperson of the COVID-19 Integrated Response Team at Suffolk, acknowledged the concerns some people have about the vaccine.

“We encourage all members of the Suffolk Community without medical or religious concerns about vaccination to be vaccinated against COVID-19 when they become eligible,” Royo said. “At this time, it is recommended but not required.”

The transition to an in-person year would be easier if all Suffolk community members were vaccinated, Royo said.

“Data from clinical trials conducted to determine vaccine efficacy demonstrate the COVID vaccine’s effectiveness,” Royo said. “The more people that are vaccinated the higher the chance to control COVID and minimize the risk of infection.”

Lauren Costa, a freshman who stayed home this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, is looking forward to finally being on campus.

“As someone who stayed remote during my first year at Suffolk, I do have hesitations. However, I do feel safe for an in-person experience for the fall,” Costa said. “I am excited to finally get the college experience.”

Costa believes the vaccine is crucial for students to receive in order for campus to return to normalcy.

“I believe knowing other members of the community were vaccinated would make me feel safer, however, I understand that taking the vaccine is currently optional,” she said.

The resolution goes to the SGA senate floor for a vote on Thursday.

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Caroline Enos contributed to this report.