Rutgers Doubles Down on “Obey To Play” COVID Policies Despite Science
Rutgers has decided to continue imposing indoor mask and vaccine mandates for the fall semester citing concerns about the continued spread of the BA.5 subvariant of Omicron.
These COVID protocols are an example of policy-making that abandons science. This as the school embarks on a joint mission to “be a force for change and innovation, shaping the future of the healthcare delivery system”… through a billion dollar partnership with New Jersey’s largest hospital chain.
It begs the question: what is ultimately shaping the future of healthcare?
Rutger’s COVID-19 safety protocols require students and teachers to wear masks in all indoor teaching spaces. Students and employees must be fully vaccinated - receiving booster shots when eligible. The university will also require either proof of vaccination or a negative PCR test within 72 hours to attend indoor events and anyone with a medical or religious exemption will be required to continue weekly testing.
This is not sound public health policy and it’s not science-driven. Worse, the vaccine mandate perpetuates discrimination based on vaccination status and reduces healthy, unvaccinated people to second class citizens.
NJ Legislators Are Speaking Up
“I want our taxpayer-supported postsecondary institutions to be open, accessible and encourage achievement for all students, no matter their medical history,” said Assemblywoman Beth Sawyer in a recent press release. “But that’s simply not possible when a school discriminates based on vaccination status.”
Senator Mike Testa, who has been a harsh critic of Rutgers COVID vaccine mandates since the beginning, called the policy “hypocritical at best and anti-science at worst.”
It’s difficult for anyone to determine what guidance Rutgers is following and why. Governor Murphy dropped COVID-19 testing requirements for NJ school districts following recent updates to COVID-19 guidelines from the CDC. NJ mask mandates were lifted last May and almost all NJ school districts have since dropped mask requirements.
Recognizing high-levels of immunity in the population and insufficiencies in vaccine-induced immunity against current strains, the CDC recently released revised guidance. Its new recommendations make room for more individual decision-making with regards to personal health risks. The CDC also removed any recommendations based on vaccination status.
“It’s embarrassing that our state university, which operates a respected medical school, can be controlled by such an uneducated agenda. It seems like they are bending to the wishes of one particular group, despite the science,” Sawyer said, adding that protocols “fly in the face of common sense and our new reality.”
Assemblyman Declan O’Scanlon says Rutger’s protocols are “lagging behind the rest of the world.”
O’Scalon in his press release said, “Those in charge of inflicting these policies should be ashamed. They are insisting on boosters for students who may have had a negative vaccine reaction—or who just had covid recently and are protected by antibodies. We have heard some truly tragic circumstances occur with students due to these illogical mandates.”
These legislators are not alone in their concerns and efforts to stop these mandates have been ongoing.
Experts like hematologist-oncologist Vinay Prasad, Dr. Aaron Kheriaty, Dr. Marty Makary continue to voice strong opposition to vaccine and mask mandates. And students and parents have been vocal, staging protests and creating community resources like nocollegemandates.org.
In June, the Global Covid Summit, an international alliance of over 17,000 doctors and scientists, asserted that “School masking, testing, quarantine, and COVID-19 injection mandates should cease immediately.”
College Mandates are Risky Business for Students
The risks of mandatory vaccination for college-aged students far outweigh the benefits since they generally handle COVID well and have higher risks for vaccine adverse events, such as myocarditis, than they do risks from natural infection. An unprecedented number of student athletes have collapsed on playing fields and experienced cardiac events since the rollout of these shots. Young people continue to “die suddenly” at rates never seen before (do quick search on anything but Google).
Covid vaccine mandates are not an effective public health measure. Available shots were formulated for variants that no longer exist and do not work against the COVID strains currently in circulation. These shots do not stop infection or transmission and any protection they offer is limited and short-lived. The high rate of breakthrough infections and increasing rate COVID hospitalizations among the vaccinated provide mounting evidence of the failure of public health policies based on mass vaccination for COVID.
So why is Rutgers forcing its students to play roulette with their health? Especially when the CDC says that 95% of the population over age 16 already has some level of immunity?
Is Rutgers Under the Influence?
Rutgers is demonstrating that it is far more interested in changing medical science than it is in adhering to scientific principles. And the bias is showing.
The university is one of the nation's leading comprehensive public research universities and home to a Center for COVID-19 Response and Pandemic Preparedness (CCRP2), an institutional research hub created to “provide quick response and transformative solutions at the local, national and international levels.”
When a school’s stated goal is to transform health care in New Jersey, it’s important to pay attention to how it goes about impacting change.
In 2018, RU’s medical schools officially launched a partnership with New Jersey’s largest hospital chain, RWJ Barnabas Health, to create “the largest academic health system in the state and one of the most comprehensive in the country." RWJ Barnabas agreed to make a $1 billion investment in facilities and services over the next 20 years. The alliance also brought the promise of additional revenue by giving Rutgers access to more grants and clinical studies.
“The focus of health care is becoming population-based rather than individual-based” explained Rutgers Biomedical and Health Sciences Chancellor Brian Strom in a 2018 interview with Rutgers Today.
“We can go to contract for research with pharma and NIH [National Institutes of Health] and other agencies, saying we have this huge population we can bring, a very diverse population, a major strength that New Jersey has to be able to bring to these clinical trials, [and] with that bring additional revenue,” said Strom in a NJ Stoplight News article.
He wasn’t wrong.
The affiliation enabled the vast expansion of Rutgers Biomedical and Health Services including a new state-of-the-art facility, which has hosted COVID-19 vaccine clinical trials by Johnson & Johnson, Moderna and Pfizer, including pediatric vaccine clinical trials for children 6 months to 4 years. The partnership also created a new $750 million state-of-the-art, free-standing cancer pavilion and sports medicine facility.
But could Rutgers students be part of the “huge” and “diverse” population being used to entice research funding?
According to his Linked-In profile, Rutgers COO and Executive Vice President Antonio Calcado was on the steering team that spearheaded the lucrative partnership with RWJ. In early 2020, he was selected to lead the Rutger’s COVID-19 Task Force and “led the COVID-19 response for the university and healthcare system throughout the pandemic.” According to his profile, he was also “instrumental in implementing the first university COVID vaccine mandate in the country.”
Calcado has zero background in science, medicine or public health.
In an interview with Rutgers Magazine he acknowledged, “I am not an expert in any of the areas that the leaders are addressing. I don’t know any of these things, but what I do know is that we can’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.”
This is the person who is still setting important precedents for public health policy.
Currently, Rutgers Biomedical and Health Sciences, the same school that is requiring all students and employees to “obtain a booster when eligible” is promoting a new, variant-specific “bivalent” booster on social media.
“I believe we will have a general recommendation for everyone—all ages—to have the bivalent booster this fall/winter,” David J. Cennimo, MD, FACP, FAAP, an associate professor at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School, told VeryWell.
These boosters will be the first ones released since the FDA approved its controversial new “Future Framework” strategy, which allows vaccine manufacturers to bypass the regulatory process and skip clinical trials of newly reformulated COVID shots. It was tested on 8 mice.
Put another way, Rutgers current policy would potentially force Rutgers students and staff to be among the first human test subjects for these new shots.
And, if some NJ legislators have their way, other New Jersey college students may be next in line. New Jersey’sA4334/S316 is a bill that “requires students, staff, and others present at institutions of higher education to receive COVID-19 vaccine.” If passed, the bill would make New Jersey the first state to require COVID-19 shots for college students. Based on current recommendations, A4334 would mean potentially subjecting students to these risks 14 times if they decide to pursue undergraduate and graduate degrees in New Jersey.
If that is the direction of health innovation in New Jersey, many residents may soon seek college education elsewhere.
And they should.
College students, and all of our children, deserve better. Colleges and universities - institutions known for championing equity and social justice - need to recognize that medical freedom is the civil rights movement of our time. It’s time to stop allowing executives, who have made incredibly lucrative deals with the NIH and pharmaceutical companies, to set precedents for public health policy.
Business of science or science of business? Choose wisely 😉
Ann - Very well stated. I ran a business for over thirty years involving educational marketing. I got to know many professors, deans and other academics who always used to say how the quality of the students here was in free fall. These kids have no common sense they used to tell me. Unfortunately the same standard of ignorance seems to apply to so many of them these days. Well I guess the dumbing down we been watching over the years isn’t limited to just the misguided youth.