COVID-19 Vaccine Community Update

August 23, 2021

Dear Members of the Bellarmine Community,

Twenty-five years ago, I was a chief student affairs officer at a Catholic college which was in many ways similar to Bellarmine University. That spring, I was on maternity leave when the university lost a student to meningitis. I remember it vividly yet today. One never forgets the experience of meeting with the family of a student who has died.

Unfortunately, meningitis took several other college and high school students in the area that spring. I participated in meetings with the city health department, the senior leadership of the university, student health services, the counseling center and campus ministry. We were all concerned about how we could prevent the further spread of meningitis and what our response should be to students and their families regarding the safety of college students on a residential campus.

We made the decision to move forward with vaccinating all students that year, long before others came to that conclusion. It was a good decision, and while the vaccination could not prevent all forms of meningitis, it was the right thing to do.

A few weeks ago, I sat in on a Teams meeting of the COVID-19 Planning Committee, comprising constituents representing all areas of Bellarmine University:  health professionals from our health disciplines of medical lab sciences, nursing and athletic sports medicine; Student Affairs professionals and the Rapid Response Team; faculty and student leaders; staff and vice presidents.

This group had spent the last year and a half guiding Bellarmine’s policies and practices around COVID-19 in the classrooms, on the campus, on the athletic fields and Knights Hall, in our campus residences, our dining halls, in our graduate programs and with our clinical and internship practices. They were doing their jobs with passion, foresight, resilience and compassion.  In my humble opinion, they were fiercely courageous. They were speaking for individuals, they were representing our community, and they were advocating for the common good.

It was shared governance at its best. Although the discussion was complicated and sometimes frustrating, a consensus emerged. Following that meeting, I announced that when the FDA fully approved any of the COVID-19 vaccines, Bellarmine University would require that all students, faculty and staff be vaccinated.

With today’s FDA approval of the Pfizer vaccine, we are enacting this universal mandate. All members of our community who have not been fully vaccinated must be vaccinated within 45 days, while commencing the process by getting the first shot in the next two weeks. Any vaccine available in the U.S.—Pfizer, Moderna, Johnson & Johnson—meets the requirement.

I urgently request that if you have not done so, you submit your vaccination status immediately. If you are a returning student, please indicate your status, and submit your vaccination card or medical record if applicable, here. If you are a first-year, new transfer or new graduate student, please indicate your status, and submit your vaccination card or medical record if applicable, here. Testing of non-vaccinated members of our community will continue. 

Please also continue complying with the masking guidelines while on campus. These precautions will enable us to continue the wonderful sense of community that was so apparent this past week.

Tomorrow, you will receive an email from Dr. Sean Ryan with the specifics of this new vaccination requirement, including the exact timelines for obtaining your vaccine. If you have questions in the meantime, faculty and staff should consult their Human Resources Business Partners and students should consult Health Services.

Many, perhaps most, of us have experienced some loss during this pandemic. We can each do our part by being vaccinated to ensure that we are not infecting ourselves or one another. I know that some will consider this mandate to be a political issue, but I consider this a matter of public health and especially the health of our community.

On Saturday, Pope Francis stated,

“Vaccination is a simple but profound way of promoting the common good and caring for each other, especially the most vulnerable. I pray to God that everyone may contribute their own small grain of sand, their own small gesture of love: no matter how small, love is always great. Contribute with these small gestures for a better future.”  

I urge all members of the campus community to care for each other by complying with the vaccination mandate.

In Veritatis Amore,

Susan M. Donovan, Ph.D.
Bellarmine University