The University of Louisiana at Lafayette has scheduled its upcoming semester to look identical to last fall. Hybrid classes will remain the same, and all campus events have either been adjusted to adhere to social distancing guidelines or canceled.
“Unless something happened miraculously, the spring semester won’t change,” Pat Cottonham, the Vice President for Student Affairs said.
However, with the introduction of the coronavirus vaccine, the country could see a slight return to normality.
Since Jan. 4, Louisiana has been receiving a limited amount of an equal split between Moderna and Pfizer COVID-19 vaccines. The finite amount of vaccines the state has received will be exclusively given to those in Phase 1B, Tier One.
This group includes, but is not limited to, healthcare workers, those over the age of 70 and members of schools of allied health.
Gov. John Bel Edwards will hold a press conference on Wednesday to update the state on restrictions and vaccinations.
Last fall, UL Lafayette’s semester was heavily affected by health and safety concerns. In November, the administration announced that the spring 2021 semester will share the same appearance.
The arrival of long-awaited vaccinations is too little too late, according to Cottonham.
“We can’t make decisions about the spring semester in December. We had to make the call early,” Cottonham said. “Right now, we are moving forward with the spring semester the same way we did with the fall.”
Cottonham said that according to the conversations she and UL Lafayette’s administration have had with health professionals, not all students will receive the vaccine until mid-March.
“We have had to determine who would be the first to receive the vaccine. We decided that would be our health center, police department, possibly nursing students. That is still indefinite.”
Though the university will decide whose vaccination is required, Cottonham said that it is unlikely that the school will distribute them.
Whether or not the vaccine will be mandatory for students depends on the school and state.
Universities across the country are still deciding if their students should be required to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. Louisiana State University, however, is considering making the vaccine a requirement.
According to Cottonham, UL Lafayette plans on making the vaccine optional for faculty and staff.
“We are still waiting for direction from the system and the department of health. Right now, I would say, it is not required.”
According to the Food and Drug Administration, Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccinations contain mRNA, which enters the human cells and delivers an abundance of protein, according to Harvard Health.
In clinical trials, the Moderna vaccine was tested on 15,400 individuals 18 years old or older. The Pfizer-BioNTech was tested on 20,000 individuals 16 years old or older. The use of both vaccines has been authorized by the FDA under an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA).
An FDA-granted EUA is not the same as FDA-approved. EUAs are used for emergency situations, supported by a Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS).
Minor side effects such as dizziness, fever, and swelling of face and throat, are highly likely after receiving the vaccines.
Vaccination requires two doses within three weeks. The duration of COVID prevention is unknown.