Johnson C. Smith students sound off on campus vaccine requirement

Published: Aug. 23, 2021 at 10:02 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - Classes for the 2021-2022 school year have officially begun on the campus of Johnson C. Smith University in west Charlotte. School administrators are requiring that all students be vaccinated against COVID-19 or have an approved medical or religious exemption.

No students were allowed on campus during the 2020-2021 school year because of the COVID-19 pandemic; all course instruction was virtual.

Nadia Johnson, a senior at JCSU, said she is very hopeful students will be able to remain on campus this school year.

“This is my senior year, and I would not like to go back virtual completely,” Johnson told WBTV. “I’m hoping that everyone at the university will follow the protocol.”

Johnson said the university’s vaccine requirement was not an issue for her. She said she was vaccinated before JCSU announced that getting the shot would be a requirement.

“I got the vaccine because particularly because my mom is diabetic. Although none of us have had COVID-19, I did want to prevent that from happening and being immunocompromised, I just knew that possibly I would be able to pass it to her,” explained Johnson.

Jamonte Gray, a senior student-athlete at JCSU, said he too is vaccinated.

“What made me get the vaccine was just seeing my grandparents get it,” Gray explained.

Kayla Jenkins, a junior at JCSU, said she got vaccinated against COVID-19 because she is immunocompromised.

“I have type 1 diabetes so that just increases the chances for having severe complications for COVID,” said Jenkins.

Dr. Marion Jones, the director of student health services at JCSU, said that roughly 20 percent of the student body is unvaccinated.

While the majority of students at the HBCU are vaccinated against COVID-19, many Black and African American North Carolinians are still unvaccinated. According to data from the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS), while Black or African American residents make up 34 percent of Mecklenburg County’s total population, the demographic group makes up just 23 percent of all those in the county who have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.

Key’shaun Kilgore is one of the roughly 20 percent of students at JCSU who is not vaccinated against the coronavirus.

“I wasn’t for it. I didn’t get the vaccine because like, I see people getting the vaccine. I still see people catching COVID, so I feel like there wasn’t no point in me getting it,” said Kilgore.

Jones said that while not all students have agreed with the school’s vaccine requirement, some have already changed their minds and have decided to get the shot.

“I think it’s a matter of them being educated and not being afraid, so I think as time goes on, they will finally get vaccinated,” said Jones about community members who are hesitant to get the shot.

She said she has enjoyed having students back on the HBCU campus and is hoping there are no major learning interruptions because of COVID-19.

“The student health is very important to us and to keep them safe and to keep the faculty and staff safe as well, so we’re just doing a general thing to keep our community healthy,” said Jones.

Classes began at JCSU on Monday, August 16.

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