Since March 2020, all students, faculty, and staff at Stanford have had to undergo regular COVID-19 testing: undergraduate and graduate students twice a week, and faculty whenever they visit campus. But starting May 2nd, graduate students have had to test only once a week, and testing for faculty/staff/postdoctoral researchers was made optional.
As for undergraduates, Stanford leaders wrote: “We’re asking for the continued partnership of our undergraduates in doing twice-weekly testing at this time.” There is no exception for vaccinated students.
The Review wants nothing to do with this “partnership.” We do not wish to be Stanford’s partners in promoting such a ridiculous policy. It is anti-scientific, anti-vax, and a colossal waste of resources.
Stanford has already announced that in the Fall, only unvaccinated students will be required to undergo testing. What’s the difference today? If testing of vaccinated students isn’t needed in the Fall, it isn’t needed now. Vaccines are freely available to everyone 16 and older (soon to be 12 and older) in the US, including in Santa Clara County, with appointments available on campus.
The institutional message coming from Stanford seems to be: we want you to get vaccinated, but we do not believe that the vaccine is effective, and you must be tested twice a week anyway. That is, unless you’re a faculty member, in which case Stanford says: “we recommend you continue to test weekly until you are fully vaccinated.” Why the difference? Are vaccinated faculty -- who skew significantly older than undergraduates -- somehow more immune than vaccinated students?
President Tessier-Lavigne is one of the only biologists to lead a major private research university. Provost Drell is also an accomplished scientist. Our medical school and hospital are among the best in the world. Stanford has been conducting coronavirus research for over a year and is one of the largest vaccinators in California, with nearly 300,000 doses administered.
So why would an institution like Stanford promote such a ridiculous, anti-scientific policy as requiring fully-vaccinated students to be tested twice a week for a disease they’re immune to?
The Review calls on President Tessier-Lavigne, Provost Drell, and Medicine Dean Minor to answer the following questions:
- Does Stanford believe in the efficacy of the three COVID-19 vaccines approved for use in the United States?
- Why is Stanford continuing to waste resources and promote doubt over vaccine efficacy by testing fully-vaccinated students twice a week?
The COVID-19 pandemic has been the greatest public health crisis in a generation, and it is ongoing. The foremost solution to get us out of the crisis is mass vaccination. Vaccines prevent illness and hospitalization with near-total efficacy (95% for the Pfizer-BioNTech mRNA vaccine) and it follows from there that every major institution should do what it can to encourage vaccination.
Allowing vaccinated students cease testing is an excellent way to encourage vaccination on campus, and Stanford should do it. It's likely that some students have delayed getting vaccinated because Stanford has not given them any incentive to get the shot.
But beyond the goal of getting more people vaccinated, Stanford should stop testing vaccinated students because it is the correct policy based on all scientific evidence and common sense. Stanford's equivalence between vaccinated and un-vaccinated students sends the false message that you can't count on a COVID vaccine to keep yourself and those around you safe. It is a disaster for vaccine messaging, and it is coming out of an eminent research university, which should embarrass us all.
Vaccines work (even on “variants”). When students are vaccinated, there is no justification to waste money, labor, and time testing them for COVID-19. And for a university like Stanford to continue this charade isn’t just a waste; it is a disgrace, and it must end, now!