The following campus message was sent on Thursday, June 3, from EWU interim President David May:
As we move toward a safe return to campus this fall, beginning with many people returning to campus on July 1, it will be necessary to continue evaluating how best to accomplish that goal. A year ago, the decisions that needed to be made were more clear and obviously necessary as we began to recognize the full scope and scale of the pandemic. Emerging out of pandemic restrictions and back to a safe in-person campus with a sense of safety and normalcy has been and will be more difficult, nuanced, and uncertain. This lack of clarity is compounded by the sense of fear and loss that we are carrying with us after fifteen months of the impacts of the pandemic.
The goal of a safe and healthy return is served best by getting as many students, faculty and staff vaccinated as possible — and that has been the goal as we have moved through the spring term. Eastern is taking a three-pronged approach to working toward the expectation that every person in our community who can be is fully vaccinated. The first area of focus is to raise awareness around the safety and effectiveness of the vaccines that are available. The second area of focus is to find ways to incentivize people to make the choice to be vaccinated to keep themselves safe and to have more opportunities for face-to-face activities in the summer and fall. And the third area of focus will continue to be making vaccines easily available through walk-in clinics. On June 9, we will host another walk-in clinic offering the one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine so that the Eastern community has another opportunity to get vaccinated before they head off for the summer, without the need for a follow-up appointment.
All of those efforts are important in getting more people vaccinated and they will continue to be the focus through the summer. However, I have also been continuing to talk with experts both locally and regionally about a requirement for students, faculty and staff to be vaccinated before returning to campus. I have also listened to the concerns of faculty and staff, and have been in discussions with the executive leadership team, Human Resources, and Risk and Compliance on campus.
I have also consulted with our own faculty public health experts. A few weeks ago, Dr. David Line, director of EWU’s Masters in Public Health program, expressed his support of the position that the university had taken to not have a requirement at that time. I spoke with him again Friday, May 28 and he pointed me to some new recommendations from the American College Health Association (ACHA) that were released on May 25. That new guidance is a comprehensive overview of the recommendations from the ACHA for all areas of the university. I have also communicated with Dr. Katie Tayor who has been supportive of the awareness and incentivization effort but believes that a requirement would be helpful. I have also spoken with Dr. Velasquez with the Spokane Regional Health District.
EWU remains committed to raising awareness, providing incentives and easing access to vaccines for the entire population of students, faculty and staff. That will remain the focus in the coming weeks and months. However, continual reevaluation of the best advice from experts is necessary as we deal with a fluid and nuanced emergence from the pandemic.
At this point, as the situation and information has evolved, I understand that it is in the best interest of the full university community to add a requirement for vaccinations to the incentives that are already in place. This requirement will be implemented in accordance with our policy on immunizations and will include exceptions for religious and medical reasons. Uploading your vaccination information will allow additional opportunities such as working in shared workspaces without a mask as outlined in the latest directives from Labor and Industries with additional opportunities forthcoming in the future. As before, you can easily upload your vaccination records or exception into Med+Proctor to satisfy the expectation that everyone who can be will be vaccinated before the start of the fall term. Detailed information on how to do that can be found at www.ewu.edu/immunizations.
The best thing that any of us can do to protect ourselves is to get vaccinated if we are able. The vaccines that are available are safe, effective, and now very easy to acquire. For more information on the vaccines, availability, or the incentives that will be available over the summer, please visit www.ewu.edu/EagsVaxUp.
For more information, watch my conversation with Dr. Frank Velasquez, the interim health officer for the Spokane Regional Health District, where we discuss the safety and effectiveness of the COVID vaccine. To learn how to talk to your friends and family about the vaccines, you can get some great advice from Kira Lewis, a public health nurse with Spokane Regional Health District.