Hundreds attend anti-vaccine mandate rally at Rutgers University
NEW BRUNSWICK — A Rutgers junior who is against the school's requirement to show proof of being fully vaccinated against COVID-19 was pleased with the turnout for a protest at the New Brunswick campus on Friday.
A group called NJ Stands Up organized the protest at Rutgers' Brower Plaza and recruited Young Americans for Liberty state director Sara Razii to enlist her members to join the rally.
"It was very positive, it was absolutely amazing, full of energy," Razii told New Jersey 101.5. "I was very extremely happy. It was very educational and informative and fun."
Razii estimated the crowd at 500; Rutgers University Police estimated the crowd size at 400.
"It was great to see democracy in action," Assemblywoman Serena DiMaso, R-Monmouth, said.
Rutgers was the first university in the country to announce the requirement for students who will be on any of the school's campuses in the fall. Since the announcement, most Ivy League schools including Princeton have announced the requirement along with a dozen New Jersey colleges.
Rutgers spokeswoman Dory Devlin said the school is committed to a "safe campus environment" in fall 2021 and said the university has updated its list of existing immunization requirements for students to include the COVID-19 vaccine.
"The university’s position on vaccines is consistent with the legal authority supporting this policy," Devlin said.
DeMaso said she and two of her four children have received the COVID-19 vaccination. Razii has not made up her mind if she will comply with Rutgers' requirement for students to report their vaccination status by Aug. 1 and hopes more scientific data will come out to convince her the vaccine is indeed safe.
"I am not anti-vaccination. I am actually very pro-vaccination. I have received many vaccinations in the past, especially in my childhood and in my adulthood as well," Razii said.
Before the protest, Ravii said she has a number of concerns about the school's requirement and the state push to meet Gov. Phil Murphy's goal of 70% of adult New Jerseyans being fully vaccinated.
"I believe the COVID vaccination is a personal and private choice that should be made between the patient and their doctor, not the government, not the school and not the institution involved," Razii told New Jersey 101.5. "Why should students my age who are less likely to get the virus be vaccinated against our will. That's a problem."
"If you were really for 'my body my choice' you would not be forcing this injection onto students," Razii said.
According to the state Department of Health coronavirus dashboard, 20% of all positive cases have been in adults age 18-29. The most cases with 39% have been in adults ages 30-49 while children ages 5-17 and adults ages 65-79 have accounted for 20% of cases.
It's a problem to the political science major with a minor in business administration that Rutgers is a public institution taking taxpayer dollars forcing health decisions.
"A public institution like Rutgers should not have the right to dictate a student's personal decision," Razii said.
Razii is also concerned that the issue of COVID-19 vaccinations has been politicized by Murphy's incentives of wine and beer and chances to win dinner with him and his wife.
"'Oh hey if you get the COVID vaccine you get a free beer.' Are you really bribing us and making us go against their own personal decisions so we can comply under your rules," Razii said.
Razii said the pandemic has also had an effect on students whose college experience has been turned upside down.
"They are using this as a tool to get people to comply under the rules. Ever since the pandemic has occurred we have seen our own state shutdown and we are being forced to be remotely online, we are forced to not be able to socialize with our peers or to be able to live our own lives," due to a virus that has very little impact with the deaths of college students.
The age group of 30-49 has the among the lowest number of deaths with just .04% of the 23,370 confirmed deaths in New Jersey, the according to the state dashboard.
DiMaso has proposed a bill, A-5611, that would prohibit any college that takes state funding from mandating a vaccine.
"I don't believe that at this point in time we need to vaccinate our students with an experimental vaccine," DiMaso said.
DiMaso students, like staff, should have the option to take the vaccine.
"I've had so many people call me, they're so worried about their children. The students themselves have called, they're worried about any long term effects, things that happen with vaccines especially one that's not been on the market all that long," DiMaso said.
College presidents and state Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli have urged young adults to get vaccinated.
"It is safe, it is efficacious, it gives you the desired result. The desired result is preventing you from getting symptomatic COVID-19," Persichilli said about the vaccine.
Devlin said staff and faculty are not required to be vaccinated but urged them to get the shot as soon as possible.