As Ohio University’s Nov. 15 COVID-19 vaccination deadline approaches, the vaccination rates of its regional campuses are much lower than those of the Athens campus.
OU’s Athens campus currently leads the regional campuses in vaccination rates by a large margin. As of Sept. 15, 72.9% of Athens campus students and employees are vaccinated, while the second-most vaccinated campus is OU Southern, with a 36.8% vaccination rate of its employees and students.
Despite the difference of rates on OU’s campuses, Gillian Ice, special assistant to the president for public health operations, said all OU students, regardless of location, receive the same information about COVID-19 vaccinations.
Marisa Newland, a senior studying English and psychology at OU’s Chillicothe campus, said she hasn’t felt excluded from university information regarding COVID-19 and the vaccine.
“We're constantly getting information through email. So, I think I feel pretty in the loop that way,” Newland said.
Newland also said she thinks the university has given students sufficient information about the vaccine and where to receive it. Presently, 35.3% of the total population at OU Chillicothe is vaccinated.
Nicole Pennington, executive dean for regional higher education, oversees all of OU’s regional campuses and has been keeping tabs on their vaccination rates. The regional campus’ lower rates may result from the variety of their students’ learning pathways, Pennington said. The regional campuses offer courses to those ranging from high school students taking college credit to local community members taking on jobs alongside classes, and communicating vaccine information can be difficult when much of the student population isn't on campus daily.
“We have also found the vaccination rates at our campuses mirror the general vaccination rates of the surrounding community,” Pennington said in an email.
There is also the possibility that regional campus students taking classes fully online do not know the mandate applies to them, Ice said. It could also be that students at the regional campuses have not filled out their COVID-19 Vaccination Pathways.
Students at the regional campuses not only vary in education style but also in their views on how OU has handled COVID-19 vaccines.
“I don't see why (vaccinations have) to be forced, and I wish that everyone had an option,” Maisey Russell, an undecided freshman at OU’s Lancaster campus, said. “I wish we could just continue to wear the masks and do the weekly testing, but I guess it's not working anymore.”
Currently, 33.7% of all students and employees at OU Lancaster are vaccinated.
Another possible reason vaccination rates are lower at regional campuses is because College Credit Plus students who do not take classes on campus are not yet required to receive the vaccine, though they are included in campus vaccination rates, Pennington said.
“We’re regularly communicating information about vaccinations but making connections on this topic with the large variety of student populations can be challenging, especially as many of them are not physically on campus each day,” Pennington said in an email.
Ice and Pennington agree that the regional campuses’ locations, the educational situations of regional students and the possibility that not all students have filled out their Vaccination Pathways can be the reason their rates are low. Regional campus students have other ideas as to why that’s the case.
“I think a lot of it has to do with mistrust and misinformation within the community, not even necessarily just on campus but within the surrounding community as well,” Newland said. “I think COVID is a very scary thing, and I also think that people are scared of the potential side effects of the vaccine. And that's causing a lot of hesitancy.”
Like Newland, Russell said she is apprehensive about the vaccine due to stories she had heard from others who have received it.
“It just intimidates me,” Russell said. “I am not absolutely against it or against anyone getting it, but it was the quickest vaccine ever made. I hear stories from people about the side effects … not from everybody, but (from) some people, you hear some scary ones.”