Colleges to strengthen wellness education and encourage students to get vaccinated
AUGUSTA, ME – Maine’s community colleges have ended a COVID-19 vaccine requirement for on-campus students, effective immediately.
The student vaccine protocol had required all on-campus students to be vaccinated against COVID-19.
Maine Community College System (MCCS) President David Daigler cited better access and range of preventative and treatment options for COVID-19, strong vaccination rates in Maine, and improved outcomes for pandemic victims as key factors in his recommendation to the board of trustees.
“I believe the board should consider ending the vaccine requirement for on-campus students, while simultaneously adopting language urging students to get the COVID-19 vaccination and boosters,” Daigler told the board at its regular meeting on Wednesday, February 8th.
The MCCS Board of Trustees voted unanimously to rescind the student vaccine requirement and adopt language “to strongly encourage all learners to receive the COVID-19 vaccinations and boosters.”
“We have been monitoring COVID-19 benchmarks all along, and this vote is a thoughtfully and carefully considered decision by the board,” Chairwoman Joyce Maker said. “It is the right time to adopt new tools and tactics to best address managing COVID-19 on campus.”
Daigler announced that the seven colleges will promptly strengthen and expand wellness education programs aimed at mitigating the spread of respiratory and other illnesses, including COVID-19, influenza, and Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV).
“It’s been three full years since the pandemic began, and the situation has changed since we initiated this vaccination protocol,” Daigler said. “It’s time to change our approach by ending the requirement and focusing on wellness education programs.”
“The health and safety of the people in our community remains our top priority, and we know the pandemic is not over. That is why we are coupling this decision with a commitment to expanding and strengthening our on-campus wellness education efforts,” Daigler said.
Trustee Dr. Mark Fourre, president of Coastal Healthcare Alliance and a longtime senior health care executive, supported the change.
“A successful vaccination campaign and natural immunity now provide a significant level of protection for our communities. We also have new tools available to treat the virus. That shift, coupled with the urgent need to prepare our workforce for the future, lead me to believe that now is the right time to update the student vaccine protocol,” Fourre said.
There is one exception to the new protocol: Students in some programs may be required to have a COVID-19 vaccination due to the requirements at third-party locations, such as student placement sites.
Maine’s seven community colleges serve approximately 25,000 people a year at nine campuses and four off-campus centers across the state. The policy affects students at all those locations. Students at off-site locations must follow the site requirements.
Expanded wellness education efforts may include, but are not limited to, facilitating access to health care tools such as vaccination and flu shot clinics, direct messages to students, digital and print messaging in public spaces, and wellness messages in campus community newsletters.
“This was not an easy decision because we don’t want to send a signal that our community doesn’t need to take any COVID-19 preventative measures. Nothing could be further from the truth,” Daigler said. “The health and safety of our community remains our top priority, but requiring students to have the vaccine is no longer a primary way to accomplish that.”
Full information on COVID-19 Updates and Reporting at WCCC can be found at www.wccc.me.edu/covid-19 .