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School of Medicine Reinstates Mask Mandates; Full Impact of House Bill 244 Still Unknown

Wright State campus | Photograph by Soham Parikh | The Wright State Guardian

Wright State University’s (WSU) Boonshoft School of Medicine (BSOM) reinstates masking mandates for its new class as COVID-19 cases rise and as vaccine legislation progresses. 

Changing policies 

The bill, passed July 14 and taking effect October 13, 2021, restricts universities and state institutions from requiring a vaccine that has not gained full Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval. This includes the COVID-19 vaccines. 

It does not apply to “a hospital or other health care facility that is owned or operated by, or affiliated with, a state institution of higher education,” according to the law’s text. For WSU, this includes the Boonshoft School of Medicine (BSOM) and Wright State Physicians.

While the university has yet to announce any change in its covid policy due to this new law, the Boonshoft School of Medicine revealed its plans for the new semester, which started at the beginning of July.

According to Valerie Weber, dean of BSOM, the school currently does not require medical students to receive a COVID-19 vaccine, yet it is highly encouraged. The vaccination rate remains high in the school according to Weber. 

Unlike the main university, BSOM reinstated its mask mandate. It was expressed that this was due to rising COVID-19 case numbers in Ohio and the fact that class has resumed with classrooms at full capacity. 

Weber also expressed the desire to require the COVID-19 vaccine for medical students once the vaccine has gained full FDA approval. No set decision has been made to make it a requirement.

“We are highly encouraging the vaccines, but not at this point requiring them. We are treating everybody the same, vaccinated and unvaccinated. We’re asking [everyone] to wear masks because we can’t distance again when cases have gone up again,” Weber said.

Vaccine Approval

H.B. 244 states that restriction only applies to vaccines that have not gotten full FDA approval. The FDA is currently reviewing the status of the Johnson and Johnson, Maderna and Pfizer vaccine, with full approval for Pfizer, expected to come in January 2022, or sooner according to an FDA press release.

“Currently, the vaccine (Pfizer) is authorized for emergency use to prevent COVID-19 in individuals ages 12 and older. The Prescription Drug User Fee (PDUFA) Goal Date of January 2022 reflects the PDUFA deadline for Priority Review and does not mean approval will not happen before that time.”

It remains to be seen what the effect of full FDA approval for the COVID-19 vaccines will be for state institutions and universities. 

Also, it remains unclear how WSU’s COVID-19 policies will change due to bill 244 and possible vaccine approval.

The Wright State Guardian has reached out to Dean of Students Chris Taylor twice since Gov. DeWine signed H.B. 244 into law on July 14 and has received no further information.

Jamie Naylor

News Reporter