As of July 1, 2022, all students in the New Mexico State University system will be required to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
While NMSU faculty and staff have been under this requirement since January, the new mandate could amount to a big change for some students. The guidelines will no longer allow weekly testing in place of the COVID vaccine, and students who do not provide proof of vaccination could be disenrolled.
Jon Webster, the lead COVID project manager in the vice chancellor’s office, says that this decision was discussed for over a month before being released.
“[The decision] wasn’t made lightly,” Webster said. “It was made in the interest of protecting the health and safety of not only our students, faculty and staff, but our surrounding community as well.”
He says that the decision was influenced not only by the threat of COVID-19 variants, but by the information that free vaccinations and testing may become more difficult for everyone to access, as well.
The new guidelines were met with approval by the New Mexico Higher Education Department, according to Webster. And NMSU is not the only college in the state to require students to be fully vaccinated.
Dale Menges, a pharmacist at NMSU’s Aggie Health and Wellness Center, fully supports the new requirements. He has been studying vaccines since the 1980s and calls the COVID vaccines “some of the most elegant and simple designs ever made.”
Menges says that the reason why some students are reluctant to get fully vaccinated is due to misinformation and “political propaganda.” He believes that this new requirement will help protect everyone in the community, not just those on the NMSU campus.
“I think that the issue will lose its weight and magnitude whenever everybody realizes it’s just a requirement that you just have to take care of,” Menges said. “It’s not about doing anything personal to your body. It’s just having a responsibility towards ourselves in our community.”
Menges thinks that it is especially important for students to get vaccinated because college campuses are so social. He hopes that the 9% of NMSU students who are not yet vaccinated will come into the Aggie Health and Wellness Center soon, but knows that some students may choose to switch schools instead.
“For them to be disenrolled is their personal responsibility,” Menges stated. “They have made a choice. If we do not protect our university community, we will have losses amongst not only our students, which we’re always thinking about, but also our staff.”
Rebekah Hagstrom, a full-time sophomore at NMSU, is one such student who is considering leaving NMSU as a result of the new vaccination requirements.
“I think it’s dumb,” she said. “I really don’t think that they have any right to tell me what I should or shouldn’t be putting in my body. It’s my body and I feel like I should be able to choose what I want to do with it.”
Hagstrom has been sending in negative COVID test results all year instead of getting the vaccine. She says she worries about possible health issues the vaccine may pose.
And while Hagstrom has been looking into transferring to other schools, she says it’s a difficult decision. The fact that she will now be required to get vaccinated makes her want it even less, but it’s difficult to find other schools in New Mexico without similar mandates.
Since out-of-state colleges could also be more expensive, Hagstrom says that she and many of her friends are currently weighing their options.
“I feel like I’ve started my life here, so picking up and moving is kind of a scary thought,” she said. “I just don’t think I should be forced to put something into my body that I don’t want.”
The new vaccination policy will not go into effect until this summer, so unvaccinated students still have time to decide whether they want to get the jab or leave NMSU. Until July, students can continue to choose whether to provide proof of vaccination or send in their weekly negative tests.
More information on NMSU’s COVID-19 guidelines is available at NMSU NOW.
They offer a few exemptions to the vaccine (including religious). It may be worth mentioning for those who feel it does not agree with their beliefs.