Cornell offers 'person of color' exemption for flu vaccine requirement

Students at Cornell University can use their status as a “person of color” to be exempt from the university’s flu vaccine requirement.

“Students who identify as Black, Indigenous, or as a Person of Color (BIPOC) may have personal concerns about fulfilling the Compact requirements based on historical injustices and current events,” explains Cornell Health’s vaccine requirement FAQ.

Students can send a private message to Cornell Health in order to request a non-medical or non-religious exemption for the immunization. For more information, the FAQ links to a page “especially for students of color,” which is meant to help minority students concerned about the flu vaccine requirement.

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“We recognize that, due to longstanding systemic racism and health inequities in this country, individuals from some marginalized communities may have concerns about needing to agree to such requirements,” explains the page. “For example, historically, the bodies of Black, Indigenous, and other People of Color (BIPOC) have been mistreated, and used by people in power, sometimes for profit or medical gain.”

The university, therefore, considers it “understandable that the current Compact requirements may feel suspect or even exploitative to some BIPOC members of the Cornell community.”

Nevertheless, Cornell strongly encourages minority students to receive immunizations.

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“Away from campus community, BIPOC individuals are not as likely to have access to preventive services or quality health care,” continues the page. “The systems, services, and policies being implemented at Cornell seek to address these inequalities as well as the differential impacts.”

One Cornell undergraduate, who spoke to Campus Reform on the condition of anonymity, said that “all students deserve equal treatment regarding what healthcare choices they are allowed to make at Cornell.” Because students of all identities may have personal concerns about taking a mandatory vaccine, “having a policy statement that singles out BIPOC students for requesting an exemption” is unfair for other students.

Campus Reform contacted Cornell University for more information and will update this article accordingly.

Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @BenZeisloft