DePaul requires Covid-19 vaccine for fall, hosts clinic in Lincoln Park
May 2, 2021
On April 8, DePaul University announced during a virtual town hall meeting that it would not be requiring students to receive the Covid-19 vaccine prior to returning to campus in the fall. Less than two weeks later, on April 21, the university reversed the decision and announced that it will be requiring the Covid-19 vaccine in order to return to in-person classes.
“In the spirit of caring for each other and for our surrounding community, DePaul has decided to require students to be vaccinated for COVID-19 when the 2021-22 academic year begins,” the campuswide email and statement from DePaul president A. Gabriel Esteban read.
Originally, Craig Klugman, a member of DePaul’s Covid-19 task force, said the school could not require students to be vaccinated before returning to campus unless the vaccines were FDA approved. During the time of the town hall meeting, other universities like Rutgers University, University of Notre Dame and Brown University had already announced the vaccine would be required, being three out of the six schools doing so.
While the Covid-19 vaccines are still only granted emergency authorization by the FDA, DePaul changed their original decision. And since the April 21 announcement, nearly 100 universities have decided to mandate their students to receive the Covid-19 vaccine too.
Different student organizations like DePaul’s Student Government Association (SGA) expressed support for a university vaccine mandate. Robbie Merkel, a DePaul senior and Executive Vice President for Diversity and Equity of SGA led the student organization’s initiative to promote vaccines and educate the DePaul community on why it is so important to get vaccinated.
SGA passed Resolution 02.12 in support of the mandate and also urged the university to make vaccines required for staff and faculty, along with any third-party contractor employees like Chartwells workers. Merkel passed along a copy of that resolution to The DePaulia.
After DePaul announced their decision in an Instagram post, the university received both positive and negative comments from the DePaul community. One user commented saying the vaccine is “still in experimental status,” can’t be required and that the university can expect lawsuits. Other users claimed that receiving the vaccine should be a personal choice and the university is not respecting the rights of students. Many others though, commended DePaul for their decision and thought it should have been made sooner.
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“Throughout the winter and spring quarters, DePaul had told our community we were weighing various options regarding vaccines,” DePaul spokesperson Kristin Mathews told The DePaulia in an email statement regarding the university’s decision. “The COVID-19 vaccine rollout has been an evolving situation nationwide. DePaul has been updating students, faculty and staff and strongly encouraging everyone in the community to be vaccinated as soon as they were eligible. Now that access to the vaccine is more widely available, DePaul made the decision to require the vaccine for the fall quarter.”
Shortly before DePaul announced it would require students to receive a Covid-19 vaccine, Columbia College Chicago also issued the same statement to its students on April 19. Despite the timing coming shortly after Columbia College’s announcement, Mathews told The DePaulia that the university’s decision was made independently of other universities.
“DePaul is in communication with city and county health officials as we facilitate access to vaccines,” Mathews said. “The university’s decision to require vaccines this fall was made independently.”
Along with the April 21 letter, DePaul announced that it would also be hosting an on-campus vaccine clinic the next week, from April 27-30, in the Lincoln Park campus student center conference room.
Previously in April, Klugman said that DePaul met with its medical partners who were willing to administer vaccines, but the city of Chicago was not giving doses to private schools without a medical center attached.
While the on-campus clinic was open, Klugman told The DePaulia that the university was finally able to secure and plan a vaccine clinic after the city allocated doses to DePaul. After Michigan Avenue Immediate Care committed to allocate and administer doses to the DePaul community, the university planned and announced the clinic less than a week later.
In the span of the four-day clinic, DePaul’s vendor was set to administer around 500 vaccines to DePaul students, faculty and staff — around 120-125 per day, Klugman said.
At the clinic, Tatum D. Thomas, dean of DePaul’s School for Continuing and Professional Studies, received her first Moderna Covid-19 vaccine. Thomas is fairly new to the DePaul community and became the dean in July 2020.
“I feel kind of just a sigh of relief,” Thomas said. “I was very nervous making it here today. I realized I’m not here today only for me. I’m here for my family, I’m here for the community and I’m here for members of society.”
Before DePaul offered the vaccine clinic, Thomas shared that she had been trying to schedule a vaccine appointment but was not successful.
“I waited, I was waiting for my turn, and within seconds of DePaul sending that email, I was on my phone booking it [the vaccine],” Thomas said. “And I felt good waiting for my appropriate turn, not taking away something from someone.”
Shawn Schoonveld is a graduate student at DePaul earning his degree in computer science. He was also among the near 500 people who received their Covid-19 vaccine at DePaul’s clinic.
“I was already planning on [receiving the Covid-19 vaccine], but I was [hoping to] maybe get it sooner, I guess,” Schoonveld said. “What [DePaul] did, made it really easy, because before I was trying to figure out ‘where to go, what do I do and how do I sign up.’ And this made it one place where I knew where to go.”
Merkel shared concern about coming back to campus if DePaul didn’t require the Covid-19 vaccine. “I would still come back to campus because I’m vaccinated, but I would be concerned about the safety of other students, faculty, and staff that haven’t been vaccinated,” Merkel said. “With a vaccine clinic available to all students, faculty, and staff, hopefully everyone will be vaccinated well before September.”
Along with the April clinic, DePaul will hold another at the end of May. It will also be a Moderna clinic so members of the DePaul community will be able to receive a second dose, according to Cheryl Hover, DePaul’s associate director of emergency management.
Hover also said that DePaul aims to host these clinics at a time when most students will be around on campus –– not during breaks or finals.
The university is still discussing accommodations for students who receive the vaccine after the fall quarter starts and still wish to return on campus soon after, Hover said. DePaul will continue sharing vaccine resources with the DePaul community.
Klugman said the university plans to keep testing for Covid-19, although the targeted population and amount of testing can change in the future.
Per Hover, the university is still considering using the #CampusClear app for next quarter, weighing the decision to modify or change to an alternative app. Students who receive the Covid-19 vaccination can upload vaccine records the same way other vaccine records have been uploaded in the past –– through the Campus Connect immunization portal.
At the vaccination event, Klugman shared with The DePaulia that as of the third day of the clinic, DePaul did not see any vaccine doses go to waste and be disposed of. He also shared that he and the university were pleasantly surprised yet prepared to see the turnout by the DePaul community.