BC Requiring Vaccinations for Fall Quarter

Photo credit Seamus Allen

After recent news of a new higher education proclamation issued by Gov. Jay Inslee in early July, Bellevue College has decided to require vaccinations for COVID-19 beginning Fall Quarter.

This was declared as the safest and most prudent course of action for students, faculty and staff after the higher education proclamation announcement on July 12. In summary, the proclamation offers two vaccination options for Washington state colleges and universities: one being that institutions of higher education would choose to be a college that requires vaccinations for all students, faculty and staff coming onto campus for either work, study or use of facilities; the other option being a college that does not require vaccinations. After careful thought with the Flu Team and the President’s Cabinet, BC’s Interim President Gary Locke has determined that requiring vaccinations would be the safest option for our institution.

A college requiring vaccinations means that beginning in Fall Quarter, all faculty, staff and students will be required to submit either a self-attestation, including the dates they received their vaccinations, or an exemption request. Individuals are considered fully vaccinated two weeks after receiving all recommended vaccine doses. This protocol will line up with the current guidance from Gov. Inslee as well as from county, state and national health officials. A majority of other four-year institutions in the region and community/technical colleges in King, Pierce and Snohomish counties are also requiring vaccinations.

Most of the information about this protocol is being kept undisclosed for now. However, we interviewed the Flu Team involved with the details of the initiative as well as BC’s Associate Director of Communication Nicole Beattie to get a briefing on what there is to know:

What prompted BC to take this decision?  

“When Gov. Inslee announced the new COVID-19 guidelines for higher education on July 12, he gave Washington state colleges and universities the choice to require, or not require, vaccinations for people to learn and work in-person on campus. If colleges chose to require vaccinations, they could lift some of the safety protocols (like daily health assessments, temperature checks), or they could not require vaccinations and maintain the same safety measures.

Given the guidance from public health officers, as well as the return of in-person learning for many other colleges in our area, BC thought that requiring vaccinations made the most sense as we slowly (and safely) try to bring operations back to normal. This isn’t going to be like flipping a switch — more like gradually turning a dial. And we continue to monitor the data so that if things change, we can adapt accordingly and still offer a great learning experience.”

How does BC plan to enforce the vaccination requirement? Some students may not want to be vaccinated. Will there be any new incentives? 

“We’re currently working very hard to update our plans and protocols, but we anticipate that there will be a simple online attestation that students and employees would complete. No new incentives are planned at this time.”

In your opinion, how effective do you think this protocol will be in enforcing the safety of our students and faculty on campus? 

“Vaccination is our best way to prevent serious illness — including hospitalization and death — from COVID-19. Our current safety measures have been effective, but everyone misses the on-campus experience. Requiring vaccinations should allow us to gradually (and safely) turn up the dial to achieve that.”

There is an option for an exemption request for students interested; how difficult will this process be? 

“That’s in process as well, but we’re looking at how other Washington state colleges and universities have implemented this kind of exemption.”

So, what does this mean for students attending BC for the first time in Fall Quarter of 2021? Tommy Mac, an incoming freshman at BC, shares his perspective on the announcement:

“Currently, I am supportive of this initiative. The university at its very core is to serve the public and they, as a public organization, can do whatever they can to assure that, [whether] it be a vaccine requirement or what not. If this were a private entity not run by the state, then this situation becomes wholly different and [it] is up to that private entity to decide whether they wish to do so or not. In the end, though this may be a subtle breach into our freedoms for some, I think our ability to maintain some sort of security in terms of public health is a worthy tradeoff, and vaccines are just great, man. The fear and worry of what is going into your body is perfectly normal, but in the end, numerous reports have shown these vaccines to [perform] very well in their ability to prevent COVID-19 from spreading.”

This announcement was released recently and there is still much to discuss on the protocol for meeting the state’s health safety requirements. Until further notice, Bellevue College will still be operating under the current campus guidelines:

  • Faculty, staff, visitors and students on campus must wear a mask when indoors, unless they are working alone, eating, or drinking. Masks only need to be worn outdoors by unvaccinated individuals in a crowded space.
  • Anyone coming to campus must fill out an online daily health assessment each day they come to campus.
  • Practice physical distancing, which has been reduced from six feet to three feet.
  • Check-in stations will remain for the time being, but temperature checks are no longer required.

Updates will be sent out over the next few weeks on information regarding vaccine attestations, exemption documentation, due dates and additional information that will be helpful among the Bellevue College community.