Covid-19 Vaccines Harmed My College Experience

In fall of 2021, I was just like any other student heading off to college for the first time. I was excited to extend my knowledge, create new friendships, and join clubs. I was also nervous about the financial toll that college would take on me. This was a huge investment into my future. In fact, this was my first financial investment, and I was hoping to get as much out of it as the pamphlets and college staff were promising. I was promised a decent education, opportunities to join an array of clubs, access to a state-of-the art gym, tutoring, and even help creating my own business. I was sold the college dream.

I chose not to get the Covid-19 vaccine after several months of personal research, listening to opinions from all sides, and sifting through the limited data available at the time. I was assured by my college that this would not be an issue and that I could partake in all of the opportunities promised to vaccinated students. However, on my very first day of school, I learned that my college was heavily pro-vaccine and strongly favored vaccinated students.

The first event new students were required to attend was a talk by the chancellor. After the chancellor gave an inspiring speech and welcomed us, she began speaking about the extra opportunities you would have if you were already vaccinated or got vaccinated soon and gave proof to the school. Not only would you get free school merchandise if you uploaded your vaccine card, but you would be entered to win hefty scholarships and even a brand new Moped. Stations were set up so you could get vaccinated at school if these prizes enticed you. This was blatant favoritism and the school obviously had an agenda, but that was to be expected at this government-funded institution.

Weeks of classes rolled by without any changes to our Covid procedures and protocols. I was beginning to get used to my new life as a college student, and I did not see any policy changes on the horizon. Unfortunately, by the end of October, a new policy was suddenly enacted for all unvaccinated students. We would be required to get tested for Covid every two weeks and upload our results to the school or “face the consequences”. The consequences were never specified, but the ominous threat was enough to get me to obey.

As I read through the new policy, I saw that unvaccinated students were heavily encouraged to make an appointment at the school to get tested. At-home tests were not considered valid, and credible third-party testing was a last resort. I made my first appointment to get tested on-campus and did not think about it again for a few days.

The day before I was scheduled to get my first Covid test, I received an email from my school with a form that had to be digitally signed before I could be tested. The form was several pages long and filled with information and terms to which I had to agree. One term that stuck out to me was that my college would be able to share the results of my test and my personal information with third parties, the government, and anyone else they deemed necessary. That was an immediate red flag, and I scrambled to find another solution that night. Could I switch to doing classes online? Could I file for an exemption? None of these options were feasible given the strict rules around attending classes in-person and the lack of opportunities for exemptions. Ultimately I canceled my test and quickly made an appointment with Walgreens to get another Covid test.

I discovered that Walgreens also gives your test results to anyone they deem necessary, but by that time it was too late to come up with another solution before my two-week deadline. I lamented the fact that I had been bullied into giving up my private medical information just so I would not have to face consequences at college. My college blindsided me by changing the school policies to policies I did not agree to when I enrolled, but if I left, I would never see the money my family and I poured into my education ever again.

Between the end of October and the beginning of December, our school policies did not change, but the effort to get students vaccinated increased. Professors compared the vaccination rates at our school to those of other schools in the area and implored us to raise our rates. The decision makers at our school decided that if we had a high enough vaccination rate we might not have to wear masks, though no promises were made. Posters, emails, and announcements continued to try to convince the few remaining unvaccinated students that we had to get vaccinated for the good of the school, our families, and society. The messaging around Covid vaccines had strong undertones indicating that the unvaccinated were selfish and were a threat to everyone else. I was beginning to feel like a second-class citizen.

Outbreaks of Covid-19 sent my college into a frenzy. Classes were constantly being canceled as vaccinated and unvaccinated students alike tested positive for Covid. The school began heavily pushing for boosters and wanted vaccinated students to stay current on their vaccines. If you did not have updated Covid shots, you were demoted to the level of the unvaccinated, and the school threatened that you may have to start testing every two weeks as well.

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