By Vivian Roach | Desk Editor
Students, faculty and staff will not be required to be vaccinated but are strongly encouraged to do so according an email Baylor sent out Thursday.
“The extent to which we can provide a full, normal fall experience is directly dependent on the continued vaccination of our campus community over the next few months,” the email said.
Lori Fogleman, assistant vice president for media and public relations, said Baylor Health Services will keep track of vaccinations by asking anyone fully vaccinated to fill out the Vaccination Reporting form. A completed vaccination card has to be uploaded on the form. All information will be HIPAA-protected by Health Services.
Fogleman, who is also on the Health Management Team, said this information helps with more than just planning for next semester.
“We will know how well protected we are as our campus community and among our families and friends; it will provide you with exemption from weekly testing and quarantine; and it will help the university continue planning over the next few months for a return to a more normal campus environment in the fall,” Fogleman said.
Furthermore, the school supported the American College Health Association in urging students to schedule their COVID-19 vaccine sooner — before they leave campus — rather than later. The association said in an article in order to mitigate the spread of the virus, schools should initiate students to be vaccinated before they’re strewn across the country for the summer.
“Please urge college students who have not yet initiated the COVID-19 vaccine series to: schedule their first vaccination appointment as soon as possible, make a plan for their second dose at the same time, protect and duplicate vaccine documentation cards,” the article said.
A lot of focus is on the fall, however the “now” is just as concerning, Fogleman said.
The decisions rely heavily on current trends, and fall plans have yet to be finalized, but what’s important right now is vaccination and continued health protocols for a more confident return to normal campus operations, Fogleman said.
“The President’s Council reviewed several recommendations from the Health Management Team. This was the pathway determined best for Baylor based on current trends,” Fogleman said.
According to the Baylor COVID-19 Dashboard, in the last seven days there were 36 cases and a 0.8% positivity rate. Overall, from the beginning of April, the graphs reflect a general decrease in daily case numbers by active cases, new cases and positive tests.
Additionally, the seven-day average of new case numbers declined the past four Thursdays: April 1 reported an average 18.43 cases, April 8 had a 12.43 average, April 15 had an 11.14 average and April 22 had a 5.14 average.
For vaccination rates as of Thursday, 17.33% of the campus community, 12.73% of students and 36.9% of employees have been fully vaccinated, Fogleman said. These numbers account for vaccination reporting and vaccines administered by the health services staff.
Percentages are only expected to increase too, with 1,380 second doses of Pfizer and 500 first doses of Moderna given this week by health services. Though, Fogleman said for the first-dose Moderna recipients, they will have to wait a few weeks, by which time school will be over, to get the second dose.
“We’ve been encouraged by students who’ve committed to staying in Waco until they receive that second dose,” Fogleman said. “They want to be fully vaccinated because they are hopeful, like all of us are, for a return to normal. Vaccination will help us get there.”
The Health Center is still providing as many vaccination appointments as they can, but because Baylor is limited by the doses allocated by the state, Fogleman said students are also encouraged to find vaccine appointments in the community at county health departments and local pharmacies.
Baylor’s Vaccination Information hotline on campus can be reached at 254-710-2900 from 8 a.m.-5 p.m., Monday-Friday or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Students staying in Waco over the summer may still get a vaccine at the Baylor Health Services. Those who would like to receive one can fill out the Vaccination Interest form to be placed on the list for a vaccine from Baylor. An email should follow to schedule an appointment.