Whether it be the University of Cincinnati’s (UC) choice to mandate COVID-19 vaccines and the passing of the deadline for students, faculty, and staff to prove full inoculation or other countrywide vaccine mandates, there appear to be two questions that escape no one: do the pros of vaccine mandates outweigh the cons and are vaccine mandates fair?

In terms of cost-benefit analysis, there are more than a few angles when discussing mandating vaccines. However, a similar result pans out no matter which angle you analyze from – health and freedom, two of the most heated discussions in regard to COVID-19, both point to vaccine mandates being the correct option.

The health benefits of COVID-19 vaccines cannot be overstated. At a 7-day moving average of 1,110 daily COVID-19 deaths, dramatically more people are dying every day from the virus than have been confirmed dead in relation to vaccines. On top of that, a variety of studies and datasets have already shown that the vaccines provide a significantly reduced risk of testing positive for COVID-19. Add in the fact that FDA-approved vaccines reduce the risk of severe illness, hospitalization and death for all known COVID-19 variants, and the best option for general health becomes all but certain. 

Freedoms given by each choice, at least on the surface, seem to be a much more complex issue. Vaccine mandates have an obvious and immediate impact on the freedoms of those under their purview: they are required to take the vaccine if they wish to continue being a member of whatever body is imposing the mandate. 

While this limitation is indisputable, freedom doesn’t exist only in freedom from the law or UC’s rules. Rather, the other side of the coin shows its face in the more substantial freedoms granted to a vaccinated community. 

Freedom also exists as the capacity for someone to act upon their own decisions, and safety offers them an outlet to do that; someone hospitalized or has died from COVID-19 may not be restrained by a mandate, but they certainly aren’t experiencing true freedom.

This concept is also present in our community here at UC. Vaccination requirements now - while infringing on the freedom of those who want to remain at the college - could open many locked doors in the future. Already in-person classes could continue, more classes may be able to move to in-person studies, and the wellbeing of the community in general (immunocompromised and healthy) stands to be largely improved. 

With the vast majority of evidence leaning on the side of vaccine mandates, it would be rather futile to argue that they aren’t fair to impose on students. Rather, I believe the more interesting discussion, while still ultimately arriving at the same answer, lies in the way the mandate is implemented.

On this front, UC has provided copious amounts of opportunities and time for students to get vaccinated. From offering UC Health vaccination appointments every weekday to waiting until Jan. 3 to unenroll unvaccinated students for the spring semester, UC has accommodated students affected by this mandate well. 

With the considerable steps that UC took, the mandate and the process seem to be fair and beneficial for the community as a whole.