Challenging the “Rationale” for UConn’s Covid-19 Vaccine Booster Mandate [with Audio]

This past March 30, 2022, the Connecticut State Colleges and University (CSCU) System, which comprises Connecticut’s 17 public colleges and universities, apart from the University of Connecticut (UConn), proclaimed, regarding covid-19 vaccination,

“Vaccines are no longer mandated for students or employees beginning with the summer semester.”

Starting June 1, 2022, several months later, UConn effectively terminated its covid-19 vaccination mandate, and weekly testing protocols, but only for faculty, and staff:

“Beginning June 1, 2022, the University’s Mandatory Workforce COVID-19 Vaccination Policy will conclude weekly mandatory testing for existing employees, and unvaccinated new employees will not be required to apply for a religious or medical exemption and will not be subject to weekly testing.”

Mandatory covid-19 vaccinations, including boosters, were not suspended for UConn’s student population:

All students who will be in-person on UConn’s campuses are required to be up-to-date on COVID-19 vaccinations. Up-to-date means an individual has complete a primary series and received and eligible boosters against COVID-19.” 

Putting aside the absence of consistency—or logic—of the UConn student vaccine policy, vis-à-vis the 17 student bodies of the CSCU, or UConn’s own, typically older non-student employees, what is the evidence-based justification for UConn’s ongoing student covid-19 vaccine mandate?

Last Wednesday, 12/7/22, I insisted the UConn Board of Trustees (BOT) provide that rationale. Appearing at the monthly BOT public meeting, I made an ~4 minute presentation, briefly highlighting germane published data from neighboring Connecticut College, and a peer reviewed covid-19 vaccine booster risk/benefit analysis for 18 to 29 year-olds, reported in the British Medical Journal publication, Journal of Medical Ethics. Printed copies of those two papers were also handed out to the BOT members.

As I noted, the peer reviewed study of an August-September, 2021, SARS-CoV-2 “delta variant” outbreak at Connecticut College, published in Clinical Infectious Diseases, during October, 2022, (“Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) Outbreak at a College With High Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) Vaccination Coverage—Connecticut, August 2021–September 2021”) found that 194/199 (97.5%) of covid-19 infected students were fully covid-19 vaccinated, with zero hospitalizations, or deaths occurring, regardless of vaccination status. It is important to remember that the SARS-CoV-2 “delta variant” has been demonstrated to be considerably more virulent than the original omicron strain, or any of the currently circulating omicron subvariants (see here, here, here, here).

I also excerpted the conclusions from a peer reviewed, extensive risk/benefit assessment of covid-19 booster vaccination among 18 to 29 year-olds (“COVID-19 vaccine boosters for young adults: a risk benefit assessment and ethical analysis of mandate policies at universities,” Journal of Medical Ethics, published 12/5/22). Bardosh et al synthesized primarily Centers For Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) data, both covid-19 vaccine clinical trial datasets housed at the CDC, and CDC observational studies, complemented by independent investigations. They observed:

“To prevent one COVID-19 hospitalisation over a 6-month period, we estimate that 31 207–42 836 young adults aged 18–29 years must receive a third mRNA vaccine. Booster mandates in young adults are expected to cause a net harm: per COVID-19 hospitalisation prevented, we anticipate at least 18.5 serious adverse events from mRNA vaccines, including 1.5–4.6 booster-associated myopericarditis cases in males (typically requiring hospitalisation). We also anticipate 1430–4626 cases of grade ≥3 reactogenicity interfering with daily activities (although typically not requiring hospitalisation). University booster mandates are unethical because they: (1) are not based on an updated (Omicron era) stratified risk-benefit assessment for this age group; (2) may result in a net harm to healthy young adults; (3) are not proportionate: expected harms are not outweighed by public health benefits given modest and transient effectiveness of vaccines against transmission; (4) violate the reciprocity principle because serious vaccine-related harms are not reliably compensated due to gaps in vaccine injury schemes; and (5) may result in wider social harms.”

My ~4-minute testimony (full audio, embedded below) to the UConn BOT concluded with this admonition for deidentified data transparency:

“[C]ertainly by the next BOT meeting present (student) hospitalizations due to covid, primarily respiratory disease hospitalizations for pneumonia. Conversely, (show) hospitalizations for serious vaccine-related injuries, and let’s have an open, transparent comparison in this extraordinarily low (covid) risk population, which does not really merit (covid) vaccination

Shortly after the BOT meeting, I filed a formal Freedom of Information request for the relevant data on hospitalizations.

Hope springs eternal UConn’s own risk/benefit data—at long last—will convince the University’s administrators that its covid-19 vaccine booster mandate for students was ill-advised, and must end immediately.

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