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Vaccine efforts move ahead as a precursor for relaxed pandemic restrictions

On April 19, nearly 200 students and CMU community members chose to receive their vaccine in a collective ability to reduce future COVID-19 limitations on campus. Campus officials, student leaders and community health partners provided the vaccine that is widely available to the western slope and on campus. The university mascot, Rowdy, joined the event offering refreshments as students waited in the observation area after being vaccinated.

In addition to helping bring visibility to the importance of vaccines the clinic allowed students who were unsure and more hesitant to ask questions and have conversations before receiving their shot.

CMU student Mathias Mulumba was among those who was not sure if he would acquire the vaccine before he walked to the clinic. While he continues to have mixed feelings about the vaccine, he did choose to become vaccinated before leaving the clinic.

Mulumba is from Uganda and travels to his native country twice per year. In addition to protecting fellow students, this unique factor influenced his decision.

“Knowing that travel to Africa may require proof of vaccine, and wanting to support eliminating pandemic restrictions combined to help me arrive at a final decision,” said Mulumba. “The people at the clinic engaged in conversation, heard my concerns and answered questions. In the end, the clinic was helpful in assisting me make a final decision to become vaccinated.”

Other students voiced additional considerations for getting the COVID-19 vaccine on Monday. Travel in their personal lives, competing in CMU athletics and/or wanting to return to in-person performing arts were additional reasons students provided for participating.

Safe Together, Strong Together Co-Chair Amy Bronson, EdD, was among the campus faculty members who supported the effort.

“Seeing students arrive with questions and leaving with a vaccine was gratifying," said Bronson. “The Safe Together, Strong Together plan has always been about using data to make decision and using technology to support those decisions. We believe that widespread vaccination on campus will provide the data we need to determine what mitigations and technologies we will need moving forward.”  

While the clinic provided convenient opportunity for students, faculty and staff, Colorado Mesa University has no plans to mandate COVID-19 vaccines for the campus community.

“We believe their own commitment to a safe and open campus will lead a high number of CMU students to respond to our encouragement to get vaccinated by the fall and this will support our effort to protect the larger community and the wellness and well-being of each other,” said CMU President Tim Foster.

Foster said he also believes that the role of higher education is to teach students how to think, not what to think — and how to build community from individual action towards the community greater good.

“The decision to get a shot against COVID-19 is influenced by a complicated cultural conversation happening throughout the democratic world. The vaccine debate centers around the pandemic, the nature of self-responsibility relative to collective well-being and a diversity of empirical evidence we all have to interpret and consider. Given this complexity we are highly encouraging all of the CMU community to protect themselves and others while acknowledging there are some who will choose not to get the vaccine for reasons that are uniquely their own.”

Throughout the last year, CMU students engaged in the conversation referenced by Foster through their actions. CMU Physician Assistant students, nursing students, and kinesiology and health sciences faculty and staff demonstrated a willingness to shoulder responsibility for community and to contribute to the wellness of those most vulnerable to the impacts of COVID-19. Last March, CMU created a mobile vaccination clinic with the Grand Junction Housing Authority. During this project, students administered COVID-19 vaccines to people facing mobility challenges. Older citizens who received the vaccine during this clinic also happened to live across from campus in assisted living centers. The community project demonstrated, in part, why CMU is not forcing people to get the vaccine.

“Mavericks already understand their responsibility to others,” said Campus Vaccine Advisor Michael Reeder, MD.

The vaccine event on April 19 occurred after the university celebrated a year of national attention for the success of its pandemic response plan and communication efforts. According to CMU Vice President and Safe Together, Strong Together Co-Chair John Marshall the Safe Together, Strong Together plan was a success in part because students chose to contribute and comply with health expert advice and directives.

“CMU was among the first in Colorado to announce a return to in-person learning, we were leaders in virus testing and were among the only Colorado campuses to safely conduct live commencement ceremonies,” said Marshall. "These milestones were a direct result of parent and student belief in and adherence to our plan.”

The live commencement ceremony received attention from national media outlets and became a model of innovation and creativity that CMU became known for throughout the pandemic

Campus officials joined student leaders during the vaccination clinic and encouraged all students, faculty and staff to help communicate the importance of and the widespread availability of vaccinations.


Written by David Ludlam