by Dan Bondarchuk, Nick Smith, and Tori Stephens staff writers
When we first set out to learn how our PPCC community was processing our current COVID-19 times, we imagined that we would see a variety of perspectives, but we weren’t quite prepared to find the depth and striking division of ideas and information.
We sorted through 130 pages of answers from the open-question survey. People were verbose. People answered all the questions. In fact, Hannah Newman in Institutional Research noted that this survey had a 100% completion rate, which is not that common:
“This survey had a 100% completion rate, which is atypical. This means that everyone who opened the survey answered all of the [pertinent] questions included.
Typically, our survey completion rates range from 75%-85% completion rates. People usually skip questions, but in the case of this survey, it seems people were eager to give their feedback on how PPCC is handling the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic,” she said.
So, for us, it has taken some time, serious consideration, and discussion to arrive at covering your story. And if we must draw a conclusion from this survey, here it is: the PPCC community wants dialogue about these controversies. As a college, we need to talk. Many opponents of the vaccine and its mandates wrote about the need to come together as a community and allow for various perspectives and discussions.
From those who believe the vaccine completely prevents you from getting COVID-19 to those who think that it’s a violation of HIPAA to ask for proof of vaccination, we’ve found misinformation everywhere. Below, we’ve addressed some of the most shining points to tease out what we do know.
We also invite any and all experts from the college to write in and add to the conversation. Please, share your wisdom and your resources with us here.
PPCC Community Vaccination Rates
Total of 929 respondents for the pertinent questions.
Total of 456 respondents on the final, additional question to the survey.
Out of the 606 students surveyed:
64% report being vaccinated; 35% report NOT being vaccinated.
Out of the 323 employee respondents:
85% report being vaccinated; 14% report NOT being vaccinated.
PPCC Community Attitudes
Q: How do you feel about being in-person this fall semester?
149 people responded specifically negatively to being in-person this fall with the majority of the reasons being related to concerns of COVID-19 spreading around campus; many of these responses came from those who have compromised immune systems, are caregivers, or prefer stricter mandates.
457 people responded positively to being in-person this fall.
57 people responded negatively to the mask mandate while providing mixed results on their contentment with being on campus. For example, this number includes responses that may be happy to be back on campus but unhappy about the mask mandate.
The other responses were not included in these numbers because they were not relevant (ex: traditional online students) or presented neutral feelings about being on campus or presented mixed responses.
Q: Anything else you’d like to tell us?
10 people responded specifically positively to the mask mandate.
38 people responded specifically negatively to the mask mandate.
22 people responded specifically positively to the vaccine mandate.
120 people responded specifically negatively to the vaccine mandate.
37 people responded specifically positively to PPCC’s efforts through this pandemic.
The other responses not included in these numbers were not relevant to the mandates and protocols. The responses here ranged from thank-you notes for the survey to suggestions for moving forward to reasons why students, staff, and faculty may be struggling. Many people used this space to further extrapolate on their feelings about the vaccine—both pro and con.
We know these numbers don’t tell a whole truth, but we’ve addressed some of the most common themes throughout the responses in hopes of beginning that dialogue to reconciliation.
Definition & Transmission
According to openMD, a virus is defined as: An infectious agent that comprises two parts: genetic material and a protein coat. These organisms lack independent metabolism, and they must infect the cells of other types of organisms to reproduce; an infectious agent which consists of two parts, genetic material and a protein coat. These organisms lack independent metabolism, and they must infect the cells of other types of organisms to reproduce. Most viruses are capable of passing through fine filters that retain bacteria and are not visible through a light microscope; in medicine, a very simple microorganism that infects cells and may cause disease. Because viruses can multiply only inside infected cells, they are not considered to be alive.
According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), COVID-19 is transferable via droplets released when an infected person exhales, coughs, or sneezes and therefore spreads droplets containing the virus where it enters the uninfected individual via eyes, nose, or mouth. There is also reason to believe that the COVID-19 virus can survive on non-porous/hard surfaces for extended periods of time and that individuals within 6 feet on an infected person are more likely to get infected (CDC); the factors determining whether COVID-19 can survive on porous surfaces, like fibrous material, wood, and sponges, has been inconclusive but transmission can still be prevented by washing or sanitizing one’s hands and keeping hands away from eyes, nose, and mouth.
Masks have been proven effective at reducing the spread of COVID-19—not by reducing the number of particles inhaled, which they do, but by reducing the amount of particles released by an infected individual. Studies have shown that cloth masks, from low to high densities, do lower the amount of bioaerosol produced but not as high as disposable medical grade masks which grant a filtration efficiency of 98-99% (Clase et al.).
Viral load is another factor to consider when discussing the transmission rate of COVID-19. Viral load, put simply, is the amount of virus or infectious dose of the virus that is required to infect an individual. Viral shedding is a term used to describe how much of the virus an infected person is spreading or releasing. In the case of COVID-19, the peak shedding period is within the first five days of becoming infected. However, it is fair to state that the amount of viral load a person has does not determine if they will get more or less severe symptoms or in some cases, persons who have a high viral load still do not become infected with the disease (Society of Critical Care Medicine).
Constitutionality & Liberty
In the survey responses many claimed vaccine mandates were unconstitutional or violated their personal/individual rights. Survey responses are presented as a bulleted list:
- “I don’t like how quick the vaccine came out, it is very suspicious to me. I also don’t like the government taking my rights by mandating it.”
- “…I refuse to be told that I am required to share my health info. [Getting Vaccinated] is an infringement of my rights and I should be able to do it when I am ready and I feel that it is something I want to put in my body.”
- “Unvaccinated because to authority should never be able to force [us] to make medical decisions.”
According to the American Bar Association, vaccine mandates have been constitutional for over 100 years, even in cases where violators could be imprisoned or fined for refusal. In two separate instances, the Supreme Court has upheld that the state is responsible for the health and well-being of its citizens.
In the earliest case in 1905, Jacobson v. Massachusetts, the 14th Amendment was brought into question regarding whether vaccinations can be forced upon citizens. The case ruled 7–2 against the vaccination opponent on the grounds of two principles: the police power of the states as well as the notion of common good. Justice John Marshall Harlan, a member of the Republican party and dissenter to the Emancipation Proclamation, ruled:
“The police power of a State embraces such reasonable regulations … established directly by legislative enactment, as will protect the public health and safety…. The liberty secured by the Constitution of the United States does not import an absolute right in each person to be at all times, and in all circumstances, wholly freed from restraint, nor is it an element in such liberty that one person, or a minority of persons residing in any community and enjoying the benefits of its local government, should have power to dominate the majority when supported in their action by the authority of the State.”
In a more recent case in 2011, Bruesewitz v. Wyeth, Republican Justice Antonin Scalia ruled that vaccines, despite their side effects, are the most effective way to ensure the health and safety of such a large society. The ruling, a 6–2 decision, presented by Scalia stated:
“For the last 66 years, vaccines have been subject to the same federal premarket approval process as prescription drugs, and compensation for vaccine-related injuries has been left largely to the States. Under that regime, the elimination of communicable diseases through vaccination became ‘one of the greatest achievements’ of public health in the 20th century. But in the 1970s and 1980s vaccines became, one might say, victims of their own success. They had been so effective in preventing infectious diseases that the public became much less alarmed at the threat of those diseases, and much more concerned with the risk of injury from the vaccines themselves.”
Liberty through different philosophical lenses can be interpreted and practiced in different ways. Through the lens of John Locke (17th c. philosopher): true liberty would not be able to be achieved through any form of legislation. And for many people in the survey, the notion of liberty is at the heart of their decision to support or oppose the mandates and protocols.
- “The moment your individual rights affect the greater good, the person loses the rights to their individual rights”
- “My choice is not dispassionate for the pandemic or its effects, its personal, and no one’s business but mine”
This element of the survey was perhaps the most compelling. It’s certainly an area where we as a college could have dialogue and seek to understand this nebulous concept in different ways.
Just pointing to the precedent of a law doesn’t draw this line for us. Another argument in the question of liberty is when liberty and communal responsibility are potentially at odds.
For a utilitarian, liberties and responsibilities are tools that are used to achieve the overall goal of happiness for society. If vaccines meet a certain threshold of utility that is so great for society, then people should be required to take them because the utility gained would be more than the utility lost.
When an action meets a level of utility to where it is worth restricting certain liberties to achieve the action, then we assign the action as a responsibility/obligation. For the many people right now, the liberty to choose to vaccinate or not vaccinate gets overridden and turned into a responsibility to vaccinate because the utility gained from everyone vaccinating is worth the utility lost from it being a choice.
Health Insurance Portability and Accountability act of 1996 (HIPAA)
A somewhat common concern with PPCC’s upcoming mandates centered on requiring vaccination status and COVID-19 tests as violating HIPAA.
- “Whether or not I am vaccinated is a HIPAA issue and none of the school’s business.”
Here is some information on why it is not considered a violation of that specific law: “The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) is a federal law that required the creation of national standards to protect sensitive patient health information from being disclosed without the patient’s consent or knowledge.” In other words, this law prohibits doctors from disclosing personal information with anyone without your consent. This does not prohibit your employer or your school from asking for some form of proof to protect their other employees and students.
Vaccine Side Effects
The survey showed that the possible long-term side effects of the vaccines were one of the most prominent reasons for people to not get vaccinated.
- “Mandating the vaccine for young men at risk of major heart failure as a result of the vaccine is unethical.”
According to Parents Possessing, Accessing and Communicating Knowledge about vaccines (PACK) from the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, delayed side effects from the vaccine can occur and typically happen within two months of getting the vaccine.
However, the evidence strongly suggests that they will not cause long-term harm. Here’s what we know:
Myocarditis, an inflammation of the heart muscle, can rarely occur when taking the mRNA vaccines. A peer-reviewed journal from the American Heart Association examines data published by the CDC that points to cases of myocarditis/pericarditis occurring approximately 12.6 cases (.00126%) per million doses of the second-dose mRNA vaccine among individuals aged 12 to 39.
The highest cases of the disease occurred in young males, and it is currently unknown why it’s more common among this group. While the mRNA vaccines can cause Myocarditis, so can COVID-19. In both cases, it is rare, but its most common cause is an infection in the body. Nisha Gilotra from Johns Hopkins Medicine explains: “Myocarditis is rare, but when it occurs, it is most commonly caused by an infection in the body. Infections from viruses (most common, including those that cause the common cold, influenza or COVID-19), bacteria, fungus or parasites can lead to myocardial inflammation.”
Most cases are self-resolving and go away within a few days. Gilotra even noted that it is possible myocarditis goes underreported because many instances are either subclinical or asymptomatic. But for the rare cases that stick around or are more severe – it’s recommended to see your doctor for proper treatment.
Another common argument against vaccines is the idea of natural immunity. And it is true, infection from COVID-19 does produce immunization. Immunization occurs when the body’s immune system becomes fortified against an infection. It is a natural response that protects the body from infection.
In a science brief examining immunity gained from both vaccines and natural immunity, the CDC found that “the immunity provided by vaccine and prior infection are both high but not complete (i.e., not 100%).” So, in short, natural immunity shares a similar purpose to the COVID-19 vaccines and does give you protection against COVID-19.
But how does this compare to vaccines?
In the same science brief, the CDC examined antibodies in blood test samples from patients with immunity gained by vaccines and immunity gained by infection and found the completion of a “primary vaccine” typically results in a more consistent and higher initial antibody response.
It was also discovered that the odds of reinfection from individuals who had immunity gained from infection was 5.5 times higher: “A more recent analysis of data from a network of 187 hospitals in the United States found that, among more than 7,000 COVID-19-like illness hospitalizations whose prior infection or vaccination occurred 90–179 days beforehand, there was a 5.5 times higher odds of laboratory-confirmed COVID-19among previously infected patients than among fully vaccinated patients.”
It’s also important to note that both immunity from infection and immunity from vaccination does not last forever. In both cases, immunity typically lasts for at least 6 months, which is the time the antibodies in your system begin to wane.
So, if people would like to maintain immunity through infection – they would need to risk infection from COVID-19 and possibly suffer even worse side effects than previous infection.
mRNA Vaccines as a New Technology
Vaccines made by Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna are the two most effective vaccines in countering COVID-19. With respective efficacy rates of 93% for Moderna and 88% for Pfizer, it is recommended to get one of these vaccines over their traditional counterpart Johnson & Johnson. However, some people are rightfully timid about using these vaccines because both use a newer technology for vaccines called messenger RNA.
- “I’m not comfortable with the vaccine because it’s a new cell-modifying vaccine.”
However, these concerns are not currently supported. Messenger RNA delivers a message to your immune system that tells your body to create a harmless piece of spike protein that is found on the surface of a COVID-19 cell. This prepares your body to fight COVID-19 without getting infected because your body will recognize the spike protein shouldn’t be there and begin to produce antibodies to remove it.
In other words, the message never enters your nucleus of the cells, where your DNA is kept. Once the mRNA does its job, it flushes out of your body after breaking down and is gone from your system within hours.
The current consensus is that the mRNA vaccines are considered both safe and effective.
Microchips, Satan, and Other Nefarious Deeds
In a world where information comes from all directions, it’s vital to understand that misinformation does not care about what side you’re on. As we have demonstrated, both sides have fallen victim to misinformation; however, one side has fallen victim to more blatant forms of misinformation and hysteria.
Some of the responses:
- This whole pandemic has been used as an orchestration by the world governments to wager all rights of the people on their willingness to take this vaccine to end their oppressions. All the while, these same leaders that prescribe restrictions and mandates are exempt from their own orders. All of this accumulates to the prophecy foretold in the Holy Bible’s Book of Revelations. A mark will be forced upon the people of the world by the governments in order to control them.
- This is an untested vaccine that has killed approximately two million people. Main-stream news, YouTube, etc. has censored opposing opinions – should tell us volumes.
- Because the vaccine is killing more people than the virus. I don’t want to be a test monkey.
- I am saddened that the college is endorsing a vaccine that is literally killing hundreds of thousands of people. I am asking you to please listen to us.
When people levy a conspiracy, a question they should ask themselves is “how hard would it be to cover this up?”
The government is comprised of multiple institutions, and each institution has its own unique goals and interests. To come together to hide something on such a massive scale would require a level of power that a government like ours couldn’t possess, especially when taking into consideration the checks and balances put in every level of government in our country.
Also, these institutions are filled with individuals that have different incentives separate from the institution they work for. Everyone has their own morals and values that don’t necessarily align with the nefarious intent the government is allegedly trying to push.
Organizations, like the news media, also have a vested interest in exposing this nefarious intent. They have the incentive to find the skeletons in the closet because they get paid to do so.
While we ought to encourage open discussion about this issue, we should also acknowledge that some voices are simply a vocal minority and do not align with the views of others on their side.
There were around 21 out of 927 individuals who suggested that the government had some nefarious intentions with the vaccine. (We did not include opposition to mandates and protocols as a form of nefarious intention; we viewed those responses as political opposition.)
It’s still important to address these ideas and be able to counter them, but we should not let the vocal minority hijack the more popular thought on a side, nor should the opposing side lump these different thoughts together and treat them like they are all the same.
Inviting All Experts
As a community of highly educated and experienced individuals, we invite you to write into the Paper if you can add to this conversation. What can you share with us to help the dialogue move along?
Please email submissions to email@example.com