Update Regarding COVID-19 Vaccinations

TO: The Gonzaga Community
FROM: Thayne M. McCulloh, D.Phil., President
SUBJ: Update Regarding COVID-19 Vaccinations
DATE: April 29, 2021

In recent weeks and days, a number of colleges and universities have announced that they will require students, and in some cases, employees, to be immunized against COVID-19. Gonzaga University, along with many others, is currently in the process of researching and evaluating its COVID-19 vaccine requirements for Fall Semester 2021. Federal, state and professional guidance regarding the many factors which inform such decisions is being issued on almost a daily basis, leaving each institution to evaluate a constantly evolving body of information.

Since vaccines for COVID-19 began to be distributed, Gonzaga has worked actively to make the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines available to its students and employees and has hosted numerous vaccine clinics on campus, beginning in February. Over 1,200 members of the Gonzaga community have been immunized through on-campus clinics, with many more receiving the vaccine through other care providers. I have been gratified by the response from our community and believe that the vast majority see the value in being immunized against the virus.

Throughout the pandemic, our chosen approach has been to emphasize the health, welfare and safety of our community members and to emphasize the importance of making educated and thoughtful individual and collective decisions that support this objective. Given our practical experience of managing COVID-19 during the current academic year, we are quite concerned about undertaking yet another year involving the same level of work to quarantine, isolate and support the number of students. The effort and resources involved with sustaining the educational mission, while mitigating viral transmission and supporting students in isolation and quarantine, during the 2020-21 academic year have been very significant.

As we have since vaccines first became available, we are encouraging every one of our students, faculty and staff to get immunized in order to reduce the chance of significant illness to themselves and others, even as we understand that the vaccines themselves are continuously being evaluated. We know that those institutions that have “mandated” the COVID-19 vaccine are allowing individuals to seek exemptions on religious, personal, or medical grounds. Although there may be a point where we determine that providing evidence of COVID-19 vaccination must be compulsory, I am not yet convinced that introducing a “mandatory requirement” regarding the COVID-19 vaccine is the place to begin, and in fact our levels of voluntary participation have been quite good. We will continue to evaluate the best ways of achieving a sufficient level of immunity within the community and as we do so, will communicate with students and families, as we have throughout the pandemic. Thank you.

More information about vaccinations and the University's response to the COVID-19 pandemic is available on our ZagOn website.