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Reporting COVID-19 Cases By Vaccination Status Is A No-Brainer For Penn State

Penn State is stuck between a rock and a hard place when it comes to its view on COVID-19 vaccines.

The university’s stance has been unwavering ever since vaccines became wildly available to the public: “You should get the shot, but we’re not going to mandate it.”

Administrators previously introduced vaccine incentives like gift cards, $1,000 checks, and autographed footballs. Unvaccinated students are subject to weekly COVID-19 testing, and Penn State has threatened sanctions for noncompliance.

But, as you might guess, Penn State’s stance on the vaccine issue has upset folks on both sides of the issue. Faculty and students have recently rallied in favor of mandating the vaccine, promptly being met by counterprotesters. Some have also argued the weekly testing for unvaccinated students is too extreme of a measure.

But no matter where you stand on the issue, it’s become obvious that Old Main has clouded the water on the state of vaccinations at University Park.

Back in April, Penn State began letting students upload their COVID-19 vaccine cards to myUHS, giving the university an early glimpse at vaccination uptake in the community. Then, somewhat confusingly, an anonymous survey was sent out to students in July asking about their vaccine status.

If you’ve taken STAT 200, you can see the issue here. The survey was ripe for response bias, which the university itself admitted at a “town hall” in early August. Penn State then released these early survey findings with just a 42% overall response rate. Anecdotally, students were also able to fill out and submit the survey multiple times.

If Penn State knew how many students were vaccinated through ] myUHS uploads, why was it conducting and sharing data from a potentially faulty survey? The university finally shared Monday that 80% of all students have submitted proof of vaccination.

Yes, this has been hard to keep track of, and, yes, it’s confusing. However, there is a solution: Penn State should start reporting its COVID-19 cases by vaccination status. Its testing dashboard currently updates twice a week, but no information on vaccines is to be found.

For both vaccinated and unvaccinated students and employees, this would be incredibly beneficial. Barring a crazy statistical anomaly, Penn State’s data would show that unvaccinated students are testing positive for the virus at much higher rates than vaccinated students.

This new data would also offer vaccinated students a look at just how many “breakthrough” COVID-19 cases are occurring at Penn State, allowing them to make more informed decisions about masking and social distancing.

The more transmissible delta variant has further widened the gap between the “two Americas” created by the vaccine. If Penn State were to report case numbers by vaccine status, we would all be able to see just how different these “two University Parks” are.

Another meaningful change the university could make to the dashboard would be to track vaccine uptake amongst students. As more get shots at University Health Services and upload their proof of vaccination, it would be helpful to monitor the vaccination rate trend.

Penn State has often tried to change the subject when it comes to vaccines at University Park. Giving students more information about just exactly who is testing positive for the virus could get us back on the right track.

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About the Author

Ryan Parsons

Ryan is a senior business and journalism major from "Philadelphia" and is Onward State's social media manager. He writes about a lot of things, including football and hoops. If you want to gain absolutely nothing, you can follow him on Twitter @rjparsons9. Say hi via email at [email protected]

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