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FDA’s Vaccine Approval Doesn’t Move The Needle For Penn State

Despite Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine gaining full approval from the Food and Drug Administration this week, Penn State still doesn’t plan on requiring shots for students and employees.

In an email, university spokesperson Wyatt DuBois said Penn State is sticking with its current approach of only incentivizing and encouraging vaccinations.

“We won’t see a change from [Penn State President Eric Barron]’s focus on the current approach as the best way to achieve the goal of high vaccination rates,” DuBois said.

DuBois added that the Pfizer vaccine’s approval could relieve worries of those who remain unvaccinated, potentially boosting immunization rates within the community.

Previously, Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccines were approved only for emergency use. The latter two are not yet fully approved by the FDA.

Earlier this month, Barron implied political pressure from Pennsylvania’s Republican-controlled legislatures served as a roadblock to requiring vaccines. In an open letter, he noted that funding of the university’s state-funded appropriation “requires a two-thirds vote of the Pennsylvania legislature.”

Nine Big Ten schools, including Ohio State on Monday, have announced requirements for COVID-19 vaccinations in one way or another. According to the Chronicle of Higher Education, nearly 800 universities nationwide have vaccine mandates in place.

Penn State faculty have outspokenly voiced concerns about Penn State’s lack of a vaccine requirement so far. About 270 professors from 16 campuses, organized by the Coalition for a Just University, taught online in protest earlier this week.

Penn State students who aren’t vaccinated (or haven’t submitted proof of vaccination to the university) are required to undergo weekly COVID-19 testing this fall. Punishments for noncompliance include conduct referrals, suspensions, and bans from campus events, including football games.

In its latest estimate, Penn State said about 82% of students living on campus are fully vaccinated.

Just 18 Penn State students tested positive for COVID-19 through on-arrival testing this fall, according to the university. Final data placed the positivity rate at 0.7%.

Of the approximately 14,000 students who moved into on-campus residence halls last week, 2,639 students were required to take a COVID-19 test before moving in last week. All students who hadn’t submitted proof of vaccination to the university needed to get tested.

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About the Author

Matt DiSanto

Matt proudly served as Onward State’s managing editor for two years until graduating from Penn State with distinction in May 2022. Now, he’s off in the real world doing real things. Send him an email (mattdisanto86@gmail.com) or follow him on Twitter (@mattdisanto_) to stay in touch.

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