Central Illinois colleges ‘impressed’ with early vaccination rates

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BLOOMINGTON-NORMAL, Ill. (WMBD) — College students are returning to campus and many are requiring proof of a COVID-19 vaccine.

In the twin cities, both public universities like Illinois State University, and private schools like Illinois Wesleyan, are asking students and staff to show their proof of vaccination or undergo regular testing.

Both officials with ISU and IWU are impressed with the early reports of vaccination among their students and faculty.

ISU Director of Media Relations Eric Jome said the current average between students and staff fully vaccinated is at 64%.

“We expect that number to continue to grow as time goes along, and we know there are a number of people who are working on their vaccination status,” Jome said.

Breaking it down, Jome said ISU’s staff and faculty are 80% vaccinated against the virus, while only 61% of total students have gotten the shot.

Jome said the number is higher among students who live on campus with 76% fully vaccinated.

At ISU, weekly testing for those unvaccinated is underway and will be required by the unvaccinated population.

“We hope it doesn’t get to this point, but there are measures in place that if people are non-compliant they can face discipline procedures either through student discipline or human resources,” Jome said.

Across town, Illinois Wesleyan officials said they’re blown away with the amount of fully vaccinated Titans.

According to university spokesperson John Twork, 95% of IWU students have responded to the vaccination survey, 83% have submitted proof of receiving a vaccine.

Twork said 88% of staff have completed the survey and 95% of IWU staff have been fully vaccinated.

IWU Dean of Students Dr. Karla Carney-Hall said she expects the number to grow.

“We consider ourselves a leader in public health right now and that’s a tribute to our students, faculty, and staff,” Hall said.

Hall said with most of the Wesleyan community protected against COVID-19, they’re cautiously optimistic that a large outbreak won’t happen on campus. She added students and staff are excited about the traditional college experience.

“For our students, I think that was incentive enough to be back in community together in the ways that define who we are as Illinois Wesleyan,” Hall said.

At Heartland Community College, Director of Public Information Steve Fast said they don’t track student or staff vaccination status but highly encourage a shot.

Fast said HCC is incentivizing those who get vaccinated at an on-campus vaccine clinic Tuesday, Aug 24.

“We thought a good way to reward them for getting vaccinated is hold a raffle so we have 10 allotments of $250 of textbook credit,” Fast said.

Fast said students and staff can take advantage of the non-invasive SHIELD testing.

ISU and Wesleyan also offer SHIELD testing on its unvaccinated students and staff.

Other schools of note:

Western Illinois University in Macomb is moving students back this week. Classes begin there Monday, Aug 23.

WIU Director of University Communications Darcie Shinberger told WMBD via email that 69% of the school’s staff are fully vaccinated while only 10% of students have gotten the shot.

Shinberger also said “We anticipate more students to upload/present their proof of vaccination in the coming days/weeks. Today (Thursday) is the first day of move-in, first day of school is Monday, Aug. 23, and students can register/enroll through Sept. 7, so we anticipate an increase in the proof of vaccination numbers.”

Students doing online only at Western don’t have to show proof.

Classes also begin Monday at Eastern Illinois University in Charleston. EIU spokesperson Josh Reinhart said in a statement:

While EIU students and employees are encouraged to submit their vaccination statuses to the University, submission is voluntary. As such, we cannot provide any accuracy in actual vaccination rates for EIU students or for its employees. We expect everyone to be vaccinated who is able to do so.  All individuals whose vaccinations cannot be verified are placed in EIU’s COVID-19 surveillance testing program.  University officials also are encouraged to see several students, employees, and community members take advantage of the two free vaccination clinics being held on-campus this week.

Bradley University in Peoria also starts its fall semester Monday. University spokeswoman Renee Charles said numbers won’t be available until after classes start.

Bradley students have until next week to submit their vaccination status.

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