Schools in the U.S. have begun to open their campus doors to students once again, with a majority adopting hybrid learning models to resume in-person classes while minimizing the volume of students attending physically.
Children, adolescents, and young adults are now under transition from virtual learning back to the traditional classroom setup, which is a step forward to reviving the intimacy and effectiveness of in-person education. This is particularly advantageous for college students, who require a more interactive approach to learning to train them for the real world.
The reopening of schools carried the risk of students being more exposed to contracting COVID-19. However, as vaccines become more widely available, inoculation rates among students and adolescents are rising and sparking hope for continuing education.
Vaccination rates among college students, however, have been developing at a slow pace — an alarming fact considering that young adults form a huge bulk of the American population, and hence are crucial if the country was to achieve herd immunity.
A Study on Vaccine Hesitancy Among College Students
This vaccine hesitancy prompted a research study to identify the reasons behind slow inoculation rates among college students and to determine what young adults really think about COVID-19 vaccines. The results of the study are published on the medRxiv Server for Health Sciences.
The participants were 2900 students from the University of Southern California (USC) who were above 18 years of age. Consenting to study, the sample was asked to fill up an electronic survey that asked questions about their race, political affiliation, sex, degree, and student status (i.e. international students). Other information retrieved includes the participants’ COVID-19 history, travel history, housing, COVID-19 knowledge, and their thoughts about mask-wearing and other public health and safety measures.
82.9% of participants were vaccinated at the time of the survey. The remaining percentage of unvaccinated participants were international and undergraduate students, as well as those who previously tested positive for COVID-19, implying that these subgroups had higher vaccine hesitancy.
College Students Supporting Vaccination Mandates
The study above, however, had limitations in terms of sample reliability and its ability to represent the wider student population. Because of this, the results are inconclusive and more studies are required to effectively reach a conclusion on vaccine hesitancy among college students.
On the contrary, colleges and Universities in the other U.S. states are making significant progress in student vaccinations. In New York, schools have mandated COVID-19 vaccinations for students set to attend classes in-campus. A survey conducted by the College Pulse and Inside Higher Ed revealed that 69% of college students support vaccination against COVID-19 and 85% of respondents have been inoculated (at least one dose).
Overcoming Vaccine Hesitancy: A Course of Action
Distrust of medical systems and the lack of reliable information about COVID-19 vaccines are the main culprits behind vaccine hesitancy. However, University presidents believe that this hurdle is easy to overcome, provided that awareness and understanding are fostered among students.
Schools can implement COVID-19 vaccine awareness programs, giving students more accurate and scientific information about the pandemic, vaccination, mask-wearing, and other safety protocols. Doctors, students, and faculty can all play a role in influencing the community to get vaccinated and do their part in curbing the spread of the virus. Vaccine communication is key to higher inoculation rates and ultimately, achieving herd immunity.