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ISU Student Vaccination Rate 61% As Classes Begin

ISU student vaccination rates exceeded statewide and McLean County averages by a fair margin as of Tuesday.

When Illinois State University students came to campus last year, there was a large spike in local COVID-19 cases. This year, student vaccination rates on the second day of classes offer some hope a rise in cases among young adults won't be as bad this year.

University spokesperson Eric Jome said 61% of students have provided proof of vaccination. That's higher than the 51% vaccination rate for the general population in McLean County, but lower than the 80% of ISU employees who are vaccinated. McLean County's rate is slightly below the statewide average.

There could still be a spike among young adults. Wednesday's numbers from the McLean County Health Department showed 400 cases for the week, the highest weekly total since April, and more than a quarter of them are among 18-29 year olds. That demographic had the largest share of new cases for the seven-day period.

Among ISU students, vaccination rates vary by residence. ISU noted the 76% vaccination rate for students living on campus is a lot higher than the 61% average for all students. Jome said ISU is not tracking vaccination rates of students who live off campus with as much rigor.

"Certainly we are tracking this as an institution and if people are non-compliant, they can certainly face disciplinary action," said Jome.

If they have not submitted proof of vaccination, ISU students must test for the coronavirus at least once a week or face university consequences. The testing, by the University of Illinois' SHIELD Illinois program, is testing non-reporting students every other day or they cannot gain access to campus buildings.

The ISU average, though, suggests off-campus dwellers have significantly lower reporting than on-campus students.

"With part of the move-in process, there were things students had to comply with to simply check in. And that was an added motivator to get this stuff in early on," said Jome.

This is not to say human nature to attend to things last minute and facing deadlines did not come into play, among ISU staff as well as students.

On July 26, after a deadline to submit proof of vaccination, less than a third (32%) of students had done so. ISU employees were even worse. Only 19% of staff had complied. On August 17, after repeated administration email prompts, 80% of ISU workers had uploaded an image of their vaccine card to the university health services website; 61% of students had done so.

There are signs the ISU vaccination rate could rise rapidly. Jome said 81% of students living on campus have at least one shot of the two-part vaccine.

A vaccination clinic done on campus with the help of Osco Pharmacy before classes began attracted 140 students. Jome said ISU will consider other vaccination clinics as partners and data suggest.

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WGLT Senior Reporter Charlie Schlenker has spent more than three award-winning decades in radio. He lives in Normal with his family.
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