University Community Members Sign Petition to Waive Booster Mandate


Courtesy of Graydon Paul/Villanovan Photography

The University hosted a booster clinic for campus community members.

Sarah Sweeney, Co-News Editor

A group of more than 400 members of the Villanova community, including parents and alumni, have signed a petition urging the University to implement a modification to the COVID-19 Booster Mandate, which would allow three groups of students to be exempted from the mandate. 

These three groups of students include students who’ve had the two mandated mRNA vaccines and a natural COVID-19 infection within the span of the last 12-24 months, students who’ve been vaccinated and had a “breakthrough infection” over Christmas Break and students who can prove robust and protective COVID-19 immunity is present in their bodies through a serological exam. 

The petition is in response to the University’s COVID-19 booster requirement, which was announced via email on Jan. 7, and requires all students to submit proof of their booster by Jan. 30. 

Meg Kohlhepp, a medical doctor and surgeon and parent of a current senior, explained her initial reaction to the announcement.

“I was angry,” Kohlhepp said. “I think it’s an overreach for a university to be mandating a product that is not FDA approved. There are no peer-reviewed, double-lined studies finding that children in this age group will benefit from the booster. There’s actually a lot of new evidence coming out that says it’s harmful to these children.”

The petition cites safety concerns surrounding the booster shot, citing “rising rate of heart injury to our young people, and particularly young men in the 18-25-year-old age group.” The petition takes issue with what authors see as a “medically unnecessary third booster shot [that] could prove dangerous and irreparably harmful in such already well immune individuals.”

“There is a huge uptick in cardiac issues,” Kohlhepp explained. “We’re seeing young healthy people that are coming down with arrhythmias, that are getting atrial fibrillation, that are getting more and more myocarditis.”

Tina Rose, mother of a sophomore and a board-certified nurse practitioner for 35 years, also signed this petition, due to concerns over adverse health effects.

There is also a plethora of studies and data linking the vaccines to myocarditis and pericarditis in the younger population,” Rose said. “This is a serious side effect and not worth the risk for anyone. There is no such thing as a ‘mild’ case when it’s related to the heart.”

“Why are they willing to risk our children’s health for a vaccine that does not provide any discernible benefits to this age group?” she questioned.

Kohlepepp also questioned the University’s reasoning in mandating the booster.

“What is the University trying to accomplish?” Kohlhepp asked. “Are they just trying to follow what the Federal Government is saying at this present moment? What is the reason for the booster? Because the science isn’t showing that it’s stopping transmission, and it’s not stopping fatality, because there is no fatality in this age group.”

“As a University that has such a strong science and engineering department, they should be the ones that are following the science and asking what the science is,” Kohlhepp said. “Before just following the Federal Government, let’s consider what is the best for our students.”

Many parents raised issue with the fact that the University waited until tuition was due to announce the booster mandate.

“There was no hint the booster would be required last semester,” Kohlhepp said. “The students had no opportunity to apply to different schools. There’s no online schooling anymore, so students don’t have the option to stay home if they don’t want the booster…you need this booster or you’re not going to get an education, you’re not going to graduate.”

A number of students are in support of the petition. 

One of these students is Steve Makino, a sophomore English major, who expressed his belief that “the petition is well-founded in science as it allows for rational exemptions that maximize students’ safety, while also not underscoring the efficacy of the initial vaccine doses.”

After reaching out to the school for a comment, Mary McGonigle, Director of Villanova University Health Center, explained that “As community is essential to the Villanova experience, our priority is for students, faculty and staff to have a safe and healthy spring semester on campus. The booster is an important tool that will allow us to remain on-campus and in-person—and to function more normally throughout this semester.

“In making campus health and safety decisions, Villanova’s medical team follows CDC guidance as well as regularly reviewing current research and conferring with state and local departments of health. The CDC, which includes top medical experts in infectious disease, strongly recommends the booster. Data from the CDC shows that people who are up to date on their vaccine and booster are more fully protected and, if they do contract COVID-19, they will have less severe symptoms and recover more quickly. Under current CDC guidelines, close contacts who have received the booster do not need to leave campus to quarantine and their educational progress is not impeded. Those outcomes are what we want for our community members.”

The Villanova Center for Global and Public Health echoed the University’s support of the booster, stating that “The Center for Global and Public Health is in full support of the University’s Covid 19 booster requirement. Booster vaccinations for Covid 19 provide vital and additional immune system support to avoid severe illness when an individual is exposed to or infected with Covid 19.”

The CDC indicates that “the recent emergence of the Omicron variant further emphasizes the importance of vaccination, boosters, and prevention efforts needed to protect against COVID-19. Data from clinical trials showed that  booster shots increased the immune response and with an increased immune response, people should have improved protection against getting infected with COVID-19.”

However, supporters of the petition are holding out hope.

“I’m a devout Christian and believe in the power of prayer, so I’m holding out optimism that Fr. Peter and Villanova will do the right thing, look at the data, [and] listen to the experts,” Rose said. “All I can do is continue to pray for all that have already received it, while I urge those who have not, to carefully review their options and the potential consequences of complying as well as not complying.”