Stetson Requires Faculty, Staff to Get COVID-19 Vaccines

Screenshot of Zoom meeting with Rolks Report Live logo.

 

Citing “scientific evidence and public health priorities,” Stetson President Christopher F. Roellke announced Wednesday that the university will require full-time faculty and staff to be vaccinated for COVID-19.

Stetson joins thousands of employers across the country in requiring vaccines for full-time employees, as well as other Florida colleges like the University of Miami, Nova Southeastern University and Jacksonville University.

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Christopher F. Roellke, PhD

“Stetson was highly successful in ‘20-‘21 in keeping our community safe and moving a Stetson education forward,” said Roellke, PhD, crediting key themes of kindness, empathy and shared ownership. “We deployed all the very best mitigants we had at our disposal. …

“Well, now, due to the extraordinary advances in science, we have a very powerful mitigant to help mitigate the transmission of this disease and that is one of the three vaccines,” he continued during a Rolks Report Live webinar on Fall 2021 announcements.

Full-time employees have until Sept. 30 to receive the two-dose series of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine, or the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine, and report it to the university. Part-time employees, including adjunct faculty, have until the start of the Spring 2022 semester to meet the requirement.

Employees can request an exemption if they are pregnant, have a medical condition or disability that could be negatively affected by the vaccine, or have an objection to the vaccine for religious reasons. To request an exemption, submit the COVID-19 Vaccine Exemption Request with the required documentation by Sept. 23.

The vaccine requirement comes as Stetson students are returning to campus for fall classes and COVID-19 cases have risen locally and nationally, due to the highly contagious Delta variant.

The Delta variant is responsible for “the overwhelming majority of cases” in the AdventHealth hospital system. And, unlike the COVID-19 virus a year ago, this variant is putting more young adults in the intensive-care unit, said Dr. Joe Smith, MD, chief medical officer of AdventHealth Daytona Beach.

“In fact, if I look at the patients who are hospitalized in our system, not just infected but hospitalized — sick enough to be admitted to the hospital, even under these circumstances — the distribution among the age groups is roughly even between ages 18 and 64. Now, that’s a big difference from what we saw before,” Smith said.

“The situation I’m seeing is young people just like you and me who have been infected with this virus who are so sick that they are ending up not only in the hospital but in the ICU on breathing machines, and even on heart-lung bypass,” he explained. “Unfortunately, we’re even seeing people of your age group who do not survive this.”

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Noel Painter, PhD

Roellke reiterated that he expects everyone on campus, including students, to get vaccinated, if they are able. Stetson would require students to be vaccinated, except that Florida law prohibits it, said Provost and Executive Vice President Noel Painter, PhD.

Among DeLand students, 53.5% had been vaccinated and had reported it to the university, as of Aug. 12. Among faculty and staff, 70% had been vaccinated.

Unvaccinated students, faculty and staff are required to undergo free Gateway Testing on Aug. 13 to Aug. 19 in DeLand, as Stetson prepares for the start of fall classes on Thursday, Aug. 19.

The university also has moved to Tier 2.5 with temporary enhanced health and safety protocols, due to the growing COVID-19 infection rates. Facial coverings must be worn by vaccinated and unvaccinated people in all indoor situations with limited exceptions and outside, if distancing is not possible.

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Asal Johnson, PhD

Statewide, the highest positivity rate is found among individuals ages 12 to 19, followed by those from age 20 to 29. Those age groups also have lower vaccination rates, said Asal Johnson, PhD, an epidemiologist and associate professor of Public Health.

“Maybe last year for your age group, it wasn’t very important and you thought that younger people don’t get severely ill. That age advantage is fading,” she cautioned. “The virus is finding the victims wherever it can and unfortunately, it’s finding now its victims among the unvaccinated.”

bottle of COVID-19 vaccineVaccines are highly effective against the virus. Vaccinated people, who contract the Delta variant, are much less likely to become seriously ill or hospitalized. “I am going to ask you to please consider getting vaccinated as soon as possible. You would do a big favor to yourself, but you also save lives around yourselves,” she said.

Stetson is offering free on-campus vaccination clinics in DeLand on Aug. 18 from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. and Aug. 25, 10 a.m.-3 p.m., in the Rinker Field House, Hollis Center. Sign up now for an appointment. Walk-ins also are welcome.

-Cory Lancaster