Repeal George Mason University's Vaccine Booster Mandate

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Repeal George Mason University's Vaccine Booster Mandate

This petition made change with 1,015 supporters!
Robert Fellner started this petition to President, George Mason University Dr. Gregory Washington and

Dear President Gregory Washington and GMU Board of Visitors,

We write to express our disappointment and opposition to the University’s decision to mandate boosters for all GMU students and staff.

By its very nature, the mandate seeks to obtain compliance through coercion, rather than allowing for a truly free and voluntary choice. Announced late on New Year’s Eve, the booster mandate requires students to choose between getting another dose of the vaccine or suffer the enormous professional and financial consequences that come from dropping out of college or law school midway through the year. Staff risk losing their job. Such dire consequences make it impossible for consent to be given freely and voluntarily. Nor has the University provided the basic information necessary for students to give informed consent.

For males between the ages of 16-29, hospitalizations from vaccine induced heart inflammation occurred at a rate of more than 1 out of every 10,000, according to a study published by the New England Journal of Medicine. The FDA estimates that rate to be as high as 1 out of every 5,000 for those aged 16-17. A just-published study from Kaiser Permanente found the rate to be as high as one out of every 2,000 for males aged 18-24. The booster mandate thus exposes students to a non-trivial risk. The University makes no mention of this risk in its mandate.

Conversely, it is now beyond dispute that vaccination cannot stop transmission and thus provide the societal benefit of eliminating Covid. In other words, the public benefit invoked to justify the original Covid vaccine mandate is not present here.

Furthermore, the booster mandate provides a negligible benefit for GMU students and staff, precisely because all are already vaccinated and thus protected against serious illness. Vaccinated adults under the age of 50 face a hospitalization rate from Covid of less than 1 in 100,000. For healthy students under the age of 30, that rate is even lower.

This is one reason why the FDA advisory panel voted 16-2 against a blanket recommendation of boosters for all. While those in at-risk groups or those who simply want to further lower their risk are, of course, free to take a booster shot, there is no data to support mandating a third dose for young, healthy people who are already vaccinated and thus protected.

The case for a booster mandate is even weaker at GMU, where the only people permitted on campus are those who are masked, vaccinated, and not displaying any symptoms whatsoever. In other words, to justify a booster mandate at GMU, the University must demonstrate that masked, vaccinated, and asymptomatic students pose a significant risk to their masked, vaccinated, and/or boosted colleagues. The University has not and cannot meet this burden, as that risk is either absolute zero or something so close to it as to be indistinguishable from zero.

GMU professes to be committed to creating a freer world. Respect for bodily autonomy is a fundamental premise of a free society generally, and American jurisprudence specifically. To coerce students and staff into receiving a medical treatment in a scenario that, by design, prevents truly voluntary and informed consent is antithetical to these values. This alone should lead GMU to abandon the mandate.

There are, however, even more problems with the mandate, given that there are many young and healthy GMU students who have both recovered from Covid and received two doses of the vaccine within the past 12 months. This cohort faces a risk from Covid that is no greater than that of the common cold. They do, however, face an elevated risk of adverse side effects from another dose of the vaccine. Consequently, the data suggests that forcing these individuals to receive a third dose is almost certain to be a net harm to them.

It is unethical and immoral to exploit the vulnerability of students, who would lose so much by exercising their right of refusal, to take a medical treatment without their voluntary, informed consent. To do so when it is clear that a third dose of the vaccine will be a net harm, at least for some, is indefensible. Allowing this mandate to take effect would forever stain the University’s reputation and undermine any claim it has as being a champion of individual rights.

GMU can demonstrate its commitment to a safe campus environment while also respecting the rights of its students by continuing to make vaccines and boosters available to all who wish to receive them.

The booster mandate, however, must be abandoned.

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