DePaul removes Covid-19 vaccine requirement


DePaul University | Jeff Carrion

A DePaul student receives a COVID-19 vaccine, Wednesday, April 28, 2021, in the Lincoln Park Student Center. The Moderna vaccine clinic was open to DePaul students, faculty and staff April 27-30, 2021 and was conducted in partnership with Michigan Avenue Immediate Care. (DePaul University/Jeff Carrion)

DePaul is no longer requiring students, faculty and staff to receive a Covid-19 vaccine as of May 12. 

Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker announced that May 11 was the end date of Covid-19 being a public health emergency. Currently, Covid-19 is the fourth-leading cause of death in the U. S., according to the National Vital Statistics System

Like DePaul, Northwestern University and Loyola University Chicago changed their Covid-19 vaccine requirements following city guidelines. University of Illinois Chicago has not yet declared if they will not be requiring the Covid-19 vaccination next academic year.

Some students are in favor of the vaccine requirement going away, but those who are immunocompromised and some faculty members expressed concern about the vaccine not being required to attend classes.

Craig Klugman, a St. Vincent de Paul professor of bioethics and health humanities, said he is nervous about the requirement being removed because there may be many unvaccinated students in an enclosed room for long periods of time. He said this worries him because many of his students do not wear masks anymore. 

In the fall, Klugman estimated about 40% of his students were wearing masks. As of now, only he estimates 5% of students wear masks in class. He said of his four classes, he and one other student are the only people wearing masks during sessions.

“The emergency is over, as of Thursday, according to the federal government,” Klugman said. “So what that means really is that our hospitals and our medical system are not being overwhelmed with patients. … Today we have medications, we have an understanding of the disease, we have vaccines. And so the emergency is over, but that doesn’t mean the pandemic is over.”

Emmaeilin “Emma” Salgado-Diaz, a junior in the College of Communication, said when removing this requirement, the university should make sure to not diminish the concerns of the immunocompromised population on campus.

“I think DePaul has the right to remove something they no longer feel is necessary, but that doesn’t mean it is vital for other people’s lives,” Salgado-Diaz said. “I think it’s all too soon if I’m being quite frank.”

Cheryl Hover, DePaul’s assistant director of emergency management and Community Health committee member, said DePaul is ending their vaccination requirement in alignment with the city ending its vaccination requirement.

She said many universities in neighboring states ended their Covid-19 vaccination requirements at the end of the 2021-22 academic year. DePaul continued its vaccination requirement because Illinois required higher education students, faculty and staff to be vaccinated until May 11. 

Hover said that despite the requirement ending, DePaul is encouraging the university population to continue to get vaccinated and stay current with Covid-19 booster shots. 

“We did a clinic earlier this year for both COVID and flu shots,” Hover said. “Hopefully, we can do that again. So any student who’s on campus, [the clinics] will make it convenient for them [to get vaccinated]. But of course, go where it’s convenient for you.”

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) claims that only about 27% of the U.S. population has received the most recent bivalent booster shot. Klugman said the original Covid-19 shot is no longer able to help with many of the mutated coronavirus strands. 

“Essentially, if you haven’t had the bivalent booster, you are not very well protected,” Klugman said.

Another aspect of the university’s decision was because the last major outbreak of Covid-19 on campus was in January 2022, according to Hover.

Klugman said he will continue to mask while teaching, but he is mainly relying on DePaul’s upgrades to the ventilation systems to keep him and his students safe.

“Scientifically, it is not as effective,” Klugman said. 

Klugman said that overall, the DePaul Community Health committee has been transparent with the university about their decision to remove the Covid-19 vaccine requirement. The committee is made up of people in administration, Public Safety, health services representatives, faculty representatives, student representatives and staff representatives.

“None of this has been done in a vacuum,” Klugman said. “I think people have been very transparent.”

Klugman said to make sure to respect the people in the DePaul community. He said “if somebody asks you to wear a mask, please wear a mask,” continue being flexible and listen to science-based answers, not misinformation.

“At the end of the day, you have a choice,” Salgado-Diaz said. “But make sure that you’re not only thinking of yourself.”

Hover said DePaul will continue to offer students free Covid-19 rapid tests until Friday, June 9. The tests are available in Lincoln Park Student Center Room 302 and DePaul Center Suite 11016. After June 9, students will be asked to speak with their healthcare and insurance providers for any testing needs.