Published May 28, 2021
Look for a new phase of UB’s health and safety campaign to ramp up in the coming weeks with one, simple message to employees: Get vaccinated.
While the informational campaign has emphasized health awareness throughout the pandemic — washing hands, wearing a mask, maintaining physical distance — the “get-vaccinated” message comes as attention has turned to a more prominent, in-person return to campus for employees this summer, followed by students in the fall.
The governor’s office already has announced it will require students across the SUNY system to be vaccinated to attend classes in person this fall, so the campaign will have a primary emphasis on employees.
“Knowing that there are a number of reasons behind why an individual may not be vaccinated at this point, we have a variety of messages emphasizing why it’s important,” says Jeffrey Smith, associate vice president for marketing and digital communications.
A series of promotional signs will begin appearing around campus. An upbeat tagline — #HornsUpVaxDone — also will be the rallying cry on social media, where the campus community will be encouraged to share their posts or photos of getting vaccinated.
While it is not required that on-campus employees are vaccinated, UB has strongly encouraged them to do so.
SUNY just released its updated COVID-19 protocols for summer and fall 2021 semester planning, and UB officials are reviewing that guidance and will communicate what it means for employees, as well as for students and visitors, in the coming days. But the university has seen some reassuring signs among those working on campus this spring, says Mark Coldren, associate vice president for human resources.
As of May 20, 1,726 faculty and staff who have been coming to campus regularly this spring have self-reported through UB’s Daily Health Check that they are vaccinated. That represents about 77% of employees on campus this spring.
“I think for people who are coming on campus it has created a really good comfort zone to know the people who are coming on are mostly vaccinated and, to me, it says the workplace is a pretty low-risk environment,” Coldren says.
UB already has a good head start among students.
Some 10,400 students who were enrolled in the spring have submitted documentation to the university that they have been vaccinated, while another 5,700 have had their first of two doses, says Susan Snyder, director of student health services.
That’s roughly 4 out of every 10 students who have either been fully vaccinated or are considered “in progress.”
“I think that’s a pretty good number and heading in the right direction,” Snyder says.
Over the past several weeks, a social media campaign launched by University Communications and Student Life has actively engaged students on getting the vaccine and will continue to do so throughout the summer.
Snyder says there will be a pocket of students who are vaccine-hesitant and will get vaccinated once the Food and Drug Administration approves a vaccine formally, not just for emergency use, which is the case now. She anticipates a relatively small percentage of students who may object based on religious grounds, and has advised them to hold off doing anything until UB knows more about what exemptions might be granted by SUNY.
But a recent UB survey showed 88% of students said they are vaccinated, in the process of getting vaccinated or plan to get vaccinated.
Snyder advises students to get the vaccine now. A copy of the vaccination card should be submitted to health services, preferably online.
“Earlier is better,” Snyder says. “Make an appointment when it’s convenient for you. There’s lots of places where it’s available.”
I strongly encourage SUNY to change the vaccine requirement to exclude those who already have had the illness. Their immunity is the same or better and there is no need to add more in the form of this vaccine. I am repeating many physicians' advice that it is unnecessary and could cause complications. A simple antigen test could be submitted for enrollment.