Stanford students, alumni, parents, and faculty call for repeal of booster mandate in letter sent to Stanford leadership
A petition calling for the repeal of Stanford University’s COVID-19 booster vaccine mandate for students was delivered Tuesday, January 18th, to Stanford President Marc Tessier-Lavigne, Provost Persis Drell, and Associate Vice Provost Russell Furr.
Created just last week, the petition has already gained more than 1,600 signatories, including Stanford students, parents, faculty, staff, and alumni united against the recently-announced booster mandate. The mandate, first announced in an email sent on December 16th by Provost Drell and Associate Vice Provost Furr, ordered all Stanford students to receive a COVID-19 booster dose by January 31st, exempting only those students with a University-approved religious or medical exemption.
The petition was delivered Tuesday afternoon in-person to Furr and the offices of Tessier-Lavigne and Drell and by email to all three leaders. As of the time of writing, it has not received a response from Stanford. Along with the Stanford petition, similar efforts are underway at many US universities including the University of Chicago, Cornell University, and George Mason University.
Mandate fails to take into account robust student immunity and known risks of COVID-19 vaccination
The petition criticizes the mandate for failing to consider the strong immunity to COVID-19 that the over 95% fully vaccinated Stanford student body already has.
The petition argues that with hospitalization rates for fully vaccinated 18-29 year olds on par with a typical pre-pandemic flu season according to CDC numbers, it’s hard to claim that students need to be forcibly vaccinated for their own sake. Nor is the mandate defensible on the basis of preventing transmission: Dr. Fauci says that Omicron will reach “just about everyone” and that even the vaccinated and boosted may become infected.
The petition continues: besides ignoring the robust immunity Stanford’s student body already has, the mandate also ignores the known risk of myocarditis (heart inflammation) from the authorized COVID-19 vaccines. One study published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that young men aged 16-29 experience vaccination-induced myocarditis at a rate of around 11 in 100,000, joining a growing body of evidence that links COVID-19 mRNA vaccines to myocarditis especially in young men.
It isn’t just the petitioners who are saying this. Paul Offit, director of the Vaccine Education Center at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and co-inventor of a rotavirus vaccine, told the Atlantic that he advised his own twenty-something son not to get boosted in light of the data that young, fully vaccinated people are already well protected from serious illness.
Leading medical researchers join in supporting petition
Some of the nation’s leading medical researchers have expressed support for the petition. Jay Bhattacharya, MD PhD and professor at the Stanford School of Medicine supported the petition on Twitter. Vinay Prasad, MD MPH and professor at UCSF, tweeted that “Stanford students are spot on in this letter,” pointing to the petition. “Universities have overreached with boosting mandates for young healthy people. Omicron’s dwindling VE [vaccine effectiveness] busts the case”, Prasad wrote.
Mandate is coercive, holds students' futures hostage to force compliance
The petition notes the lack of transparency from Stanford regarding the decision to mandate boosters for all students. A December 14th announcement explained that COVID-19 vaccines are “most effective against the Omicron variant in individuals who have received both a full course of vaccination and a booster dose.” Students have not been informed by Stanford of the risks involved with vaccination or the University’s reason for mandating boosters instead of recommending them.
“Everyone, boosted or not, has a common cause in this. We must stand for our right to our own bodies. We must not quietly submit to this performative and offensive mandate” said Monte Fischer, a first-year PhD student at Stanford involved in organizing the petition, in an op-ed published in the Stanford Daily.
Fischer continued, writing “Let us send a message to the University: treat us as adults. If Stanford thinks we should be boosted, let it persuade us with evidence and reason instead of holding our futures hostage and bullying us into compliance.”
The petition concludes with a call for accountability to Stanford leadership: “You have a choice, President Tessier-Lavigne, Provost Drell, and Associate Vice Provost Furr: are we a morally serious community which respects the freedom of its members to make informed decisions, or will the University trample on its least powerful members for the sake of a performative, unnecessary, and coercive measure?”