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State health board approves mandatory vaccinations for higher-ed students

By Bob Conrad

The State of Nevada Board of Health today unanimously approved mandatory vaccinations for Nevada System of Higher Education students. The mandate is effective Nov. 1, 2021. That’s when students must provide proof of a completed vaccine series in order to enroll for courses — meaning, for the spring semester.

“It’s very safe,” said health board member Dr. Trudy Larsen. “The data that has been presented to the FDA is quite complete in terms of the [effectiveness] and safety, and they continue to monitor it. In fact, this is probably the most monitored vaccine we’ve ever had because there’s such huge public interest.

“The vaccines are very effective in blunting the impact of this COVID pandemic that we are in the middle of,” she added.

The vote came after hours of public comment, much of it conspiracy-based.

UNLV’s graduate student leader, Nicole Thomas, said more than 60% of UNLV students want the vaccine mandate. She expressed frustration by the comments on the Zoom call calling people communists and suggesting that those in favor of the mandate were paid shills.

“There’s no arguing against [these commenters],” she said.

NSHE institutions already mandate vaccines for a handful of diseases, and the coronavirus vaccines are the next one to be added to their lists.

Kent Ervin with the Nevada Faculty Alliance said more than 1,000 faculty members signed a statewide petition in favor of the mandate.

“I speak on behalf of the 1,260 NSHE faculty, staff, students, and family members statewide who have signed. Vaccinations are the surest and safest way to protect the campus community against harm from COVID-19 and to keep in-person classes open,” he said. “According to the Chronicle of Higher Education, 741 colleges and universities nationwide have mandated vaccinations.”

Nathan Noble, a University of Nevada student senator, said he was concerned about his and his peers’ safety. He spoke in support of the vaccine mandate.

Those against the mandate said COVID-19 vaccines are experimental and therefore harmful. But these claims have been widely debunked.

“Emergency use authorization (EUA) in the U.S. has been issued as a result of the severity of the pandemic,” Reuters recently reported. “When the pandemic is over, the EUA will cease and vaccine manufacturers will need to apply for full U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval (here). No timeline on this has yet been given (here). The UK, meanwhile, has a similar mechanism (here, here). The Johnson & Johnson and AstraZeneca shots are viral vector vaccines, a type of jab also used during Ebola outbreaks, as well as in studies of illnesses including influenza, Zika and HIV (here).”

The National Institutes of Health reported in January that “there were no concerning safety issues with vaccination. Local reactions to the vaccine were generally mild. About half the participants receiving mRNA-1273 experienced moderate to severe side effects—such as fatigue, muscle aches, joint pain and headache—after the second dose. In most volunteers, these [were] resolved within two days.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention similarly maintained the safety of the vaccines and reported deaths following vaccinations have been misunderstood as erroneously confusing correlations and causation.

Critics of the measure cited personal choice as a reason for not getting vaccinated.

Heidi Parker with Immunize Nevada said, however, there is legal precedent for mandating vaccinations.

“History also shows us legal precedent when in 1905 the Supreme Court noted in Jacobson versus Massachusetts ‘upon the principle of self-defense, of paramount necessity, a community has the right to protect itself against an epidemic of disease which threatens the safety of its members,’” she said.

That ruling also acknowledged that “it is within the police power of a State to enact a compulsory vaccination law, and it is for the legislature, and not for the courts, to determine in the first instance whether vaccination is or is not the best mode for the prevention of smallpox and the protection of the public health.”

The vaccination mandate includes exemptions for medical and religious reasons. Students attending online will not have to provide proof of being vaccinated.

The mandate is effective for 120 days, and it will need to go through another public process to become permanent.

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