So, How Did UVa’s Vaccine Mandate Work Out?

Confirmed COVID cases. Source: University of Virginia COVID Tracker. Arrow indicates when 238 students were disenrolled for having failed to comply with UVa’s vaccination mandate.

by James A. Bacon

Readers may recall that last August the University of Virginia “disenrolled” 238 students for not complying with the university’s COVID vaccination mandate. (Of those, 49 had enrolled at the time the decision was made. The intentions of the others were not known. Many likely had made other arrangements knowing that the mandate was in the works.)

“Our most effective tools to limit the spread of the virus within our community are vaccines and booster shots for those who have already been vaccinated,” the university explained in a vaccination update to UVa faculty and staff.

So, how did UVa’s forced vaccination policy, which extended to faculty and staff, work out?

We can get a sense from the graph above, which is taken from the University of Virginia’s COVID tracker dashboard. The arrow indicates roughly when the purge of unvaccinated students went into effect, around August 20, 2021.

The graph tells the story: there was a big bump in COVID-19 cases when students returned to the Grounds in the fall; cases fell during the fall; and then a massive, sustained surge took place when the Omicron variant took hold in the winter. All told, despite near-universal vaccination, UVa officials tallied more than 4,500 confirmed cases in the fall and spring semesters.

By early 2022 Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), proclaimed publicly what was becoming obvious to all: while vaccinations and and boosters were highly effective at protecting people from severe outcomes, they did not stop the spread of the disease. “Our vaccines are working exceptionally well,” she said on Jan. 10. “What they can’t do anymore is prevent transmission.”

But UVa stuck to its guns. The university reversed its vaccine mandate only after newly-elected Attorney General Jason Miyares issued a legal opinion Feb. 1 stating that state colleges and universities could not require the vaccine unless the General Assembly included it among mandated immunizations for the state’s higher education institutions.

UVa’s Board of Visitors, which had awarded President Jim Ryan a $200,000 bonus in September 2021, took the remarkable action in early 2022 of extending his contract, even though it was not due to expire until 2025. A key reason cited was his leadership in dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic.

I questioned the vaccination mandate back in August. My main concern was that the university failed to distinguish between unvaccinated individuals who had survived COVID and those who had never been exposed to the virus. My thinking was that COVID survivors acquired natural immunities, as studies in other countries had suggested, that might be as potent as the resistance provided by vaccinations, which were known to lose their potency over time. It did not occur to me that vaccinations would do so little to prevent transmission. Vaccinated individuals, it turned out, can still carry the virus in their nasal cavities.

What was abundantly clear at that time was that much of what was “known” about COVID in the early stages of the pandemic was wrong, and that the “science” was continually evolving. UVa authorities, by contrast, never wavered in their conviction that they knew best, and that they were morally justified in expelling anyone from the UVa community who did not submit to their diktats.

With the benefit of hindsight, we can look back and see that UVa’s anti-COVID regime did not prevent the spread of COVID among students, teachers and staff. One can legitimately question whether the decision to eject 238 students made any difference at all. The only thing we can say for sure is that 238 individuals were deprived of a UVa education.

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41 responses to “So, How Did UVa’s Vaccine Mandate Work Out?”

  1. LarrytheG Avatar

    re: ” While vaccinations and and boosters were highly effective at protecting people from severe outcomes, they did not stop the spread of the disease. “Our vaccines are working exceptionally well,” she said Jan. 10. “What they can’t do anymore is prevent transmission.”

    If the vaccines were highly effective at protecting people even if not as effective as reducing transmission – why is that a “failure”?

    What’s the problem? Did you expect perfection or similar and otherwise “sticking to your guns” is somehow wrong?

    Neither UVA nor anyone else KNEW with 100% certainty what should be done or not – they were working off of limited information and even that information was changing – they did act responsibly with the best interests of the students.

    I just can’t fathom what the critics were expecting.

    UVA was far from alone on this. It played out on many college campuses across the country. Different colleges took different steps. No one knew with any great certainty what was the absolute right path forward.

    The critics acted like dunderheads and idiots – judging and demanding largely with their own ignorance and beliefs – many rejecting scientific evidence and Govt recommendations.

    I’ll take UVA’s approach in a New York Minute over JABs…

    1. dick dyas Avatar
      dick dyas

      Bacon, God love him, has a thing against Covid vaccines.
      I guess all of us have a quirk about something.

      1. DJRippert Avatar

        Man, you liberals really have a problem with reading comprehension. Bacon has repeatedly stated that he is fully vaccinated. He has never criticized the vaccinations – only their mandate given that those vaccination proved ineffective at spreading COVID to others and given that people who contracted COVID and recovered don’t need to be vaccinated.

        1. Matt Adams Avatar
          Matt Adams

          That’s because they don’t understand the terms. It’s incomprehensible to them that someone can be for personal choice and understand the good in something and it doesn’t require Big Gumit to mandate it.

          IOW they have such little grey matter they require being told what to do at all times.

        2. LarrytheG Avatar

          re: ” He has never criticized the vaccinations ”

          what part of ” while vaccinations and and boosters were highly effective at protecting people from severe outcomes, they did not stop the spread of the disease.’

          do you not ‘comprehend”.

          He’s questioning the effectiveness of the vaccine… no?

    2. DJRippert Avatar

      Where did Jim ever say the vaccines were a failure?

      If the only benefit of the vaccines was reduced morbidity from COVID-19 (rather than reducing the spread) – why would UVa mandate their use? It’s kind of like eating too much. It might make you sick but it won’t make those around you sick.

      UVa claimed that the vaccines were necessary to protect the students from contracting COVID. Looks like UVa was wrong.

      1. Cathis398 Avatar

        “why would UVa mandate their use”?

        because they didn’t want community members to die?

        is that rocket science? it’s not “kind of like eating too much. It might make you sick.” it’s “might kill you” vs “probably won’t kill you.” it’s going to make you sick regardless, which is why they also had mask mandates in place, for everyone–masks are very effective at preventing transmission.

        and as Larry says, the way this would play out among real populations wasn’t even known. so they decided to err on the side of preventing death. which happens to be the core mission of public health.

        1. DJRippert Avatar

          Expelling (and YES, they were expelled) for making their own value judgement as to the risks of vaccination vs the benefits i authoritarian BS. Does UVa expel students who smoke? Does UVa expel students who eat too many Gusburgers?

          The only rational reason to expel students who refused to get vaccinated was to protect others. It turns out that didn’t happen.

          1. Cathis398 Avatar

            “Expelling (and YES, they were expelled) for making their own value judgement”

            first, as many have pointed out, UVa and all other universities have many vaccination requirements that people rarely if ever object to as “value judgments.”

            second, please provide any news reporting showing they were expelled. i can’t find any, and my personal connections at UVa tell me otherwise. they were not allowed to enroll for the semester, which happens all the time (especially for things like not paying bills a student owes) and is not at all like being expelled, because once the student corrects the problem they are allowed to enroll again.

        2. DJRippert Avatar

          Erring on the side of caution is a somewhat understandable point. However, in retrospect, that error was, just that, an error.

          1. LarrytheG Avatar

            to NOT have required vaccinations , to have allowed any/add to return without vaccinations would have almost surely resulted in injuries and deaths.

            what should have been done instead?

      2. LarrytheG Avatar

        UVA did the right thing. They protected those who were unvaccinated from being infected or infecting others while at UVA with the initial and worst variant.

        Yes, Jim and you imply “failure” when you say : ” UVa claimed that the vaccines were necessary to protect the students from contracting COVID. Looks like UVa was wrong.”

        this is part of the ignorance, willful and otherwise about the issue.

        We’re NOW on the other wide of this and it’s crystal clear that getting the vaccine was/is paramount to being protected from the most harmful aspects of the disease – aside from transmissibility – which we simply did not KNOW with certainty at that time.

        We did what we thought was best at that time with the information we had at that time.

        Some folks just refuse to not be ignorant about it- even now.

    3. Cathis398 Avatar

      While vaccinations and and boosters were highly effective at protecting people from severe outcomes, they did not stop the spread of the disease. “Our vaccines are working exceptionally well,” she said Jan. 10. “What they can’t do anymore is prevent transmission.”

      it’s odd that JAB can quote this and deny it at the same time.

      1. Cathis 398, Don is totally right here, and you are totally wrong. I don’t deny that vaccines are effective. To the contrary, I think they are effective, I am fully vaxxed and boosted, and I urge most others (excepting the handful who might have immunological issues) to get vaxxed and boosted. As Don also correctly points out, I don’t believe in imposing my values on others.

        UVa was crystal clear that its policy was designed to prevent the spread of the virus, not simply to protect people from getting really sick. That policy failed.

        Just admit it.

        1. LarrytheG Avatar

          UVA’s policy was to protect people from getting the virus and getting seriously sick or dying. And it worked.

          They did not have perfect information about the transmissibility but they knew the danger of getting infected or an unvaccinated person infecting others.

          The were not alone on this. It played out on college campuses across the country but JAB primarily attacks UVA not all the other colleges that also did the same thing or similar.

          It would have been quite a bit weaker argument if JAB attacked ALL the other colleges that did the same.

          At the time that UVA and many othrs made their decision – they did not know the issue about transmissibility of the variants – and for that matter neither did those who chose to get vaccinated – either – including JAB.

        2. LarrytheG Avatar

          re: ” UVa was crystal clear that its policy was designed to prevent the spread of the virus, not simply to protect people from getting really sick. That policy failed.”

          yep. sorta like the prevention of death and serious illness was a nice but unintended side benefit.

          SUCH BS!

  2. walter smith Avatar
    walter smith

    Bacon has been too kind, and Larry, as usual is wrong and has to pipe in with his loyalty oath to Dr. St. Fauci. I have to leave right now, but will come back and you can hate on me instead of Jim. But this was beyond good faith wrong.

    1. LarrytheG Avatar

      No loyalty to Fauci but loyalty to science, yes. UVA based their decision on the science known at that time with a heavy dose of what was also not known.

      They made a judgement call – that in the end – did save lives even if not – in retrospect – based on complete information we know now but not then.

      It’s actually hypocritical to disagree with what UVA did then get the vaccine yourself – right – at that time – not knowing any more than UVA knew either, right?

      Did JAB really know the things that he now claims back when he decided to get vaccinated and UVA mandated ?

      If he KNEW that the vaccine would not stop transmissibility – for a fact then – would he have still gotten the vaccine?

      So JAB made a similar calculation based on what he thought he knew and did not know – same as UVA.

      1. walter smith Avatar
        walter smith

        No Larry – you believe in SCIENTISM, especially when your team is in power. I think you either must get piece rate for your affirmations of loyalty, or maybe you are just hoping Joe’s forces will come for you last.

        1. LarrytheG Avatar

          I believe in science Walter whether we’re talking about cancer or plate tectonics or polio vaccines…or hydrogen or nuclear energy. t

          There is no team. There is common sense and intellect instead of idiocy and ignorance and idiotic ways of disavowing it.

  3. Larry, tell me how many lives the UVa vaccination mandate saved.

    One place to start is by finding how many people in the UVa community were dying before the mandates were enacted. Then start your reasoning from there. I’ve provided the link to the UVA COVID tracker dashboard. Check it out. See what you come up with.

    1. LarrytheG Avatar

      We don’t know. We just know that infected people at that time could suffer injury and death – just like you did when you made your own decision to get vaccinated.

      You also did not know with any certainty one way or the other but you made a judgement – essentially a safe but sorry judgement just like UVA did.

      As did a lot of other colleges and other entities including K-12 schools that feared unvaccinated people spreading disease and causing injury and death.

      They have dashboards also. What’s your point?

      You’re actually doing worse than Monday morning quarterbacking IMHO.

      No one knew back then what we know now about the difference between illness/death and transmissibility.

      It was a judgement based on what they knew at that time and what they did not know – AND their perceived responsibility to NOT knowingly congregate people who were unvaccinated.

      You blame them for that judgement. And you imply they had no right to deny unvaccinated to come and infect others. That’s your real complaint. Right?

  4. Cathis398 Avatar

    first, disenrolled is not a euphemism for expelled. the students could still register for classes if they got vaccinated, whereas an expelled student would not be allowed to register again, at least unless they re-applied for admission and were accepted.

    i can’t find more recent follow-ups to the story, but my understanding from folks on grounds is that in the end, especially once Youngkin came into office, is that most of the 49 who wanted back in were allowed, if they hadn’t already been.

    in the end it’s a very small number, and drawing statistical inferences from that number (how big is the UVa community as a whole–at least 30,000 people? removing 49 from that is statistical noise.) without much more precise numbers of vaccination, case rates, regional infection rates and so on is meaningless.

    second, as you usually do on this blog, you mis-state the absolutely clear purpose of the vaccines: the point is to prevent people from getting serious disease and dying, not to prevent infection. We are seeing the beneficial effects of that right now, where there is widespread infection yet again, and yet very few hospitalizations and deaths, especially among the vaccinated. That’s all the vaccine makers and regulators ever claimed they would do, and they do.

    1. DJRippert Avatar

      ” … prevent people from getting serious disease and dying, not to prevent infection.”

      If it didn’t prevent infection then why did UVa dis-enroll students who decided not to get vaccinated? Does UVa dis-enroll students who smoke cigarettes? Does UVa dis-enroll students who drink to excess? Who eat unhealthy diets? Who don’t exercise?

      If the vaccines had no effect on transmission why wasn’t getting the vaccine a personal choice?

    2. Fair comment about “disenroll” not being a euphemism for “expelled.” I’ll delete the snarky insertion.

      You’re off-base on prevention versus protection. You totally ignore the quote I provided in the story: ““Our most effective tools to limit the spread of the virus within our community are vaccines and booster shots for those who have already been vaccinated.”

    3. VaPragamtist Avatar

      “removing 49 from that is statistical noise”

      That’s not how epidemiology works. Depending on the pathogen and the environment, 1 – 49 individuals can have a devastating impact on the entire 30,000.

      The question is, did UVA’s vaccination policy help control the spread of the disease? Probably not, because as we came to find out after the policy was in place, vaccines did not prevent spread.

      Was there secondary benefit? Did UVA’s vaccination policy help mitigate the effect of the disease on the infected? Probably. But if you’re seeking to lessen the impact on an individual, shouldn’t vaccination be an individual decision?

      1. LarrytheG Avatar

        It would have been unconscionable for UVA to initially invite back the student body without regard to vaccination status.

        And it surely would have led to outbreaks and serious disease and injury to both students and their families and others.

        So what is the real complaint?

        1. VaPragamtist Avatar

          “It would have been unconscionable for UVA to initially invite back the student body without regard to vaccination status.”

          How so?

          “And it surely would have led to outbreaks”

          The vaccine doesn’t stop the spread of the virus. Outbreaks happen regardless of vaccination.

          “injury to both students and their families and others.”

          Only to those who made the choice not to vaccinate.

          1. LarrytheG Avatar

            and those people could have infected others and UVA considered a policy that allowed those to infect others – irresponsible.

            Not only UVA, lots of other colleges, businesses and corporations , airlines, etc had the same concerns.

            And still do – you have to have a negative test even now… for some things..

          2. VaPragamtist Avatar

            I don’t follow your logic. As we found, anyone can infect anyone, regardless of vaccination status. A vaccinated person can still become infected, suffer illness, and spread the virus. The vaccine only lessens the impact of illness on the individual once infected.

            The point I take from this article is that in retrospect UVA’s policy (and the policy of many others), “you must vaccinated because vaccines will mitigate the spread of the virus” was based on false assumptions. The vaccine still has significant benefits, for the individual. But the idea that requiring this vaccination against this pathogen “for the good of the community” turned out to be baseless.

  5. walter smith Avatar
    walter smith

    Jim Bacon was too kind to UVA in his Covid analysis. He has always questioned why UVA (and all the other schools and the CDC) did not factor in natural immunity. He never advocated against the vaccine (in fact, he wrote an article about feeling liberated after getting the shot (that we now know doesn’t work). His problem was the mandate when there was natural immunity. Given that UVA just reported for Spring 2022, compared to Spring 2021, 1,300 more “cases,” and given the 97% vaccination rate, it would appear to be abundantly clear that the vaccine did not “stop the spread.” In fact, there are pretty sound arguments to indicate that the vaccinate everybody strategy may have increased cases as the virus mutated around the “leaky” vaccine (and, let’s be real – it was not and is not a vaccine, no matter how many times CDC “updates” its definition of a vaccine. It was an experimental therapeutic medical product).
    Last year, before Omicron, I received info from Tech, JMU and VCU showing well over half of the “cases” were from “vaccinated” individuals. UVA did not track that info in the Fall 2021 semester. One not a critic of UVA might think that would have been valuable information to gather, but not at the supposedly best school in the Commonwealth! Then Omicron hit AND UVA updated its mandate for a third shot which, coincidentally, had to be completed by January 14, 2022. The lab rates, oops, students, had one week to meet that new schedule, and it had NOTHING! to do with the swearing in of new executives on January 15th.
    Amazingly, it seems that our medical professionals lost interest in keeping the vaxed/unvaxed stat. JMU did not track it at all this Spring. Tech responded that 1,784 of 2,064 cases were among the vaccinated. I inquired further since Tech reported over 5,000 cases and Tech clarified that it no longer asked for vaxed status but those were self disclosures. Again, why would an institution pursuing knowledge NOT gather that info? I still have not received an answer from UVA (requested on May 25) as to whether it tracked that info. But, given the reported stats, the vaccinated case percentage would have to run somewhere in the 80-90% range.
    But there is even more to question here – everybody in my family has had Covid. Five now have natural immunity and have not caught it again. Two were fully vaxed and got Omicron. One had previously been infected, was required to get 3 shots by an unnamed school, and got it again. Wouldn’t a real desire for knowledge also track re-infection by vaxed/unvaxed? If a gentleman scholar history major can come up with that as a data point, how come the experts couldn’t? One hears that the vaxed students at UVA would get sick, but because they were not required to submit to weekly testing (like the evil unvaxed) and they did not want to quarantine, they would remain out of Student Health on purpose and likely infect others. In short, the UVA policy was a complete failure, and I believe all the schools quit recording the vaxed/unvaxed info to avoid creating the record cementing the failure (so Larrys of the world could remain ignorant). Prove me wrong.
    That was all just a precursor to my main problem with the mandates. The covid “vaccine” was emergency use authorization. To receive EUA status, any medical product must be “safe” and “effective” and there must not be any other effective medical product. EUA status precludes being an “approved” product. In all likelihood, the EUA status was improvidently granted. It no longer meets the at least 50% standard for effectiveness. Nor does it comply with all prior standards for “safe.” I am not going to argue about the regulatory capture and corruption of the CDC here. Bobby Kennedy Jr. and Naomi Wolf and Steve Bannon and Ed Dowd and Etana Hecht and Steve Kirsch and Drs. Malone, Marik, McCullough, Kory and others can provide plenty of evidence for those technically minded. I believe the data is overwhelming, but that is not my point right now.
    The federal statute for EUA status requires that there be “informed consent” and that any patient has the right to “accept or refuse” the treatment. It is in the statute and still is. Federal law preempts State law. AG Herring’s opinion was wrong as a basic element of law and any licensed lawyer would know that, most especially all of the Law Professors at UVA, all of the BOV lawyers, and a certain president of UVA who clerked at the Supreme Court. Every single Covid shot in this country has been of the EUA product and had a drug liner stating the “accept or refuse” right. Every single one.
    Every medical system in this country has some version of a Patient’s Bill of Rights. These all contain the “informed consent” language in one form or the other. There is even a “right to die.”
    The VDH website says it complies with all laws and policies.
    One would think that when you advise the UVA administration, and the BOV and the VDH of these laws and their own policies, someone, somewhere would take note. But, UVA persisted, despite how many hundreds of objections we don’t know. 238 were disenrolled. How many employees were fired? How many medical and religious exemption requests were denied/ Denied, by the way, at a school founded by the greatest proponent of religious liberty.
    Let’s go further. There was a little event where something like 6,000,000 Jews were murdered. There were trials in Nuremberg post WWII for war crimes, including medical war crimes. I did not write the Nuremberg Code, but I think it exists for a good reason. Since EUA status is, by definition, not “approved,” EUA products are, by definition, “experimental.” Article 1 of the Nuremberg Code requires willing, informed consent to participate in a medical experiment. I am sorry if this offends you, but it offends me that you aren’t offended! What kind of horrible person do you have to be to believe violating the Nuremberg Code is “OK”?
    Let’s go further still. Do you really think holding enrollment over a kid’s head is not coercion? Do you really believe the weekly testing regime was not intended to force compliance? Do you really believe threatening loss of job to participate in a medical experiment was authoritarian? For someone 40 years old and healthy, which is the greater health risk – Covid or poverty caused by losing your job? How about the family members affected by this tyranny? Why was it “OK” to require that people disclose their vaccine status? Do we ask people to disclose whether they have had abortions or are on the pill? What happened to “my body, my choice”? So killing an unborn human is A-OK, but resisting an experimental medical product, that doesn’t work, is not? If you were all in on medical tyranny, you are not the virtuous person you think you are and might need to look in the mirror.
    Other aspects that I will not address here are the censorship and the suppression of effective therapeutics and the still unknown long term effects. Hundreds of thousands of people probably died due to the “official” protocol of go home and call the hospital if it gets worse. Aggressive early treatment works, but takes away the right for EUA status. I believe this rises to the level of crimes against humanity. But I will never dissuade the Larrys of the world, no matter how much real data pours in, and I don’t wish to spend my life arguing with people who do not know anything other than repeating “the narrative.” I only want people for now to focus on the violation of federal EUA law, health system policies, and the Nuremberg Code. There will be plenty of time to argue about what happened and why later (but it won’t be good for you lovers of big government!).

    1. Eric the half a troll Avatar
      Eric the half a troll

      Old Walter believes that the flu vaccine is not a vaccine… this entire screed… asked and answered… yawn…

      1. walter smith Avatar
        walter smith

        Affirming that I am correct…
        Nothing substantive.
        Glad you are OK with violating Nuremberg Code…
        And never answered on breaking the law…
        Oh, that’s right. Lefties get to break laws because they are so moral, and Pubbies are just evil and should all be in jail.

    2. Lefty665 Avatar

      The suppression of consideration of immunity from having contracted Covid was huge for me. That is especially true since that immunity has now been found to be more effective than vaccination at preventing re-infection.

      That vaccination was a requirement for enrolling in school and more broadly required for employment, travel, dining out, or shopping for groceries was a travesty. It was one perpetrated by people from University Presidents to the President of the US. Members of the US Armed Forces are still being discharged for refusal to get Covid vaccinated.

      I am covid fragile, fully vaccinated and boosted. It is my hope, and belief from looking at statistics, that gives me a shot at catching and surviving a “mild” case. It does not delude me into thinking that it makes me much less vulnerable to catching Covid and spreading it to others.

      WTF America, think for a change.

      1. walter smith Avatar
        walter smith

        Right. And I have no problem with CHOOSING to get the shot. If I were older and had some other issues that made Covid risky for me, I might choose to get it. I remain unconvinced on whether it is effective, and my over-riding hesitancy, for me, is the unknown long term effects. Meanwhile, everybody, if you are overweight or have low Vitamin D, these are things you can do that work. Hope it does offer you some protection there Lefty…

        1. Lefty665 Avatar

          Yeah, I’m not obese and do take vitamin D as well as exercise. There’s nothing I can do about being a geezer and other health issues other than be careful about what exposures I do have. It has certainly changed our lives.

  6. James Wyatt Whitehead Avatar
    James Wyatt Whitehead

    Those 238 students may have been deprived of the UVA experience. But they will not miss the UVA sticker shock. Those who were disenrolled are saving a bundle.

  7. Lefty665 Avatar

    That wily virus outsmarted the woke geniuses at UVA. Quite a feat for a little string of RNA,

    It is amazing that Covid figured out how to use the vaccines to advance its imperative to maximize its spread by not killing its hosts. Let the vaccines prevent severe illness and death while ignoring them as infected people, many vaccinated, propagate disease widely. Ingenious. Evolution rules.

    Operation Warp Speed, the sequel, Covid strikes back.

  8. Eric the half a troll Avatar
    Eric the half a troll

    The R0 of Omnicron is about 15 while Delta is about 5 and the original strain is about 3. Given this information and the student population at UVA, the impact to the student body from the Omnicron strain was quite modest. The vaccine does appear to have been effective at stemming transmission within the university population.

  9. Stephen Haner Avatar
    Stephen Haner

    This was always about lawyers driving policy by saying, “when we get sued, we must demonstrate we took every step!” Defensive, and defensive only. Listen to lawyers too much and this is what you get.

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