MC to Rescind COVID Vaccine Requirement as National Public Health Emergency Ends

MC’s non-mandatory COVID-19 vaccination policy is set to take effect May 20, 2023. @MANHATTAN.EDU/COURTESY

By Megan LaCreta, Senior Writer

Manhattan College’s new non-mandatory COVID-19 vaccination policy is set to take effect May 20, 2023 following this year’s commencement ceremony. In an email to students, Chief Compliance Officer Goldie Adele wrote that while the vaccine will no longer be mandated, the college still encourages community members to receive it. 

“Everyone is strongly encouraged to get vaccinated and stay up to date, and to provide this information to the college,” Adele wrote. “We will continue to monitor federal, state of New York and the city’s guidance on this issue and infection trends, and respond as needed.”

Adele also wrote that the college will encourage students to test before moving into residence halls and will continue to require those with positive tests to report their results to Health Services. Resident students will continue to be responsible for any isolation costs.

Manhattan’s announcement came just a week before the official end to the national public health emergency was announced by the Biden administration on April 10.

MC was far from the first college to rescind its vaccine requirement. In the Bronx, Fordham University announced that it would no longer require the COVID-19 vaccination effective May 15. Previously, Monroe College was the first college in the borough to lift their requirement, effective July of 2022, with the exception of students in certain clinical programs.

Monroe College spokesperson Jackie Ruegger explained that the college made the decision to rescind the requirement in the wake of breakthrough cases seen with the Delta and Omicron variants.

“Being vaccinated no longer had an absolute impact on transmissibility,” Ruegger said. “The medical community found that a vaccinated person who contracted COVID carried the same viral load as an unvaccinated person.”

Manhattan, Fordham and SUNY schools will have summer courses to get used to the change in policy. Monroe College, Ruegger explained, chose to pilot the change with a smaller group of student-athletes who returned for the pre-season in July, before the wider campus community arrived to start the fall semester.

“There were random cases, which was expected given the local and regional upticks in reported cases, but no serious outbreaks among the players or within the dorm, and so we expanded from there,” Ruegger said.

At Manhattan, the end of the vaccine requirement brings about the end of an era. For many graduating seniors, including chemical engineering major Maddie Byrne, COVID-19 and the college experience are inextricably linked with the pandemic interrupting their freshman year. 

“I honestly feel kind of robbed of the traditional college experience just because of COVID in general,” Byrne said. “As an engineer at least, I feel like the foundation of the work that I needed in my freshman and sophomore year was not properly laid down due to the fact that almost all of my classes were done online my sophomore year… But also, there’s the other side of it, socially. I feel like people are less likely to talk to each other.”

Byrne is immunocompromised, leading them to take a cautious approach to COVID-19 and expressing concern for how the lack of a vaccine requirement will affect other immunocompromised people.

“I’m afraid for the next wave of possibly immunocompromised people who will have to perhaps deal with people who are not vaccinated and don’t care about getting sick,” they said.

“Being comfortable enough to know that like 80 to 90% of the college campus is vaccinated made me feel a lot better about not having mask mandates in classes anymore,” Byrne said. “It made me feel safer to be around campus and be in public spaces, because honestly, I’ve gotten COVID twice from being at college. I do not recommend it, it sucks so bad, it’s horrific.”

According to the college’s recently disbanded One Manhattan office, 81 percent of the Manhattan College community was fully vaccinated against COVID-19 at the start of the academic year on Sept. 6 2022. This is on par with the vaccination rate of the city as a whole, which was also 81 percent as of April 6 according to the Department of Health.