Divisions over COVID-19 vaccinations has not escaped the sports community at Wartburg. 

When the Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson and Johnson vaccines became widely available to the public, Wartburg College recommended students and faculty to get a vaccine. As of Oct. 10, 73% of faculty and staff have been vaccinated. 

Student-athletes are at 70% of about 675 student-athletes, according to the interim athletic director. 

There is no vaccine requirement from the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) but they do require unvaccinated individuals to be rapid tested three times a week.   

Even though the vaccines have been available and the Johnson and Johnson version being FDA approved, the topic of vaccination policies has been very contentious. There are varying reasons why people are not wanting to get the vaccine including medical conditions and belief of natural immunity. This has not escaped the sports community at Wartburg. 

“Our student-athlete population is at 70% as a whole. There are multiple factors that have led to some individuals choosing not to be vaccinated.  I believe some have underlying medical conditions that preclude them from the vaccination at this time,” Ryan Callahan said. “Some have concerns about how quickly the vaccine was developed and others that have had COVID feel that their natural immunity is enough to protect them.” 

Callahan is currently the interim Athletic Director and also represents Wartburg on the COVID-19 Action Team. Callahan has been working with each of the teams to make sure that all players are staying safe. 

“Coaches and student-athletes received education at the beginning of the year regarding COVID-19 and the college’s mitigation strategy.  We have open lines of communication regarding test results and any contact tracing implications,” Callahan said. 

During the summer was when coaches were recommending the vaccine to students but since then, focus has been on getting the job done on the field. 

“Vaccines were brought up during the summer during team meetings over zoom, as our coaches recommended it to us, but did not force or require it. We had the freedom to decide. I decided to get the vaccine to keep me and my family safe. Now that we are here and in season, our coaches and my teammates haven’t really brought it up,” Cole Bollweg, fourth-year football player, said. 

There are benefits on campus and within the athletic department to being vaccinated. According to a message sent out to students and staff, if someone who is vaccinated comes in contact with a person who has tested positive for COVID, they do not need to be isolated, but need to wear a mask when around other people. 

“Unvaccinated student-athletes are required to undergo additional mitigation. Those student-athletes receive rapid antigen testing 3x a week and can be quarantined if they are considered exposed to an individual that has an active COVID infection,” Callahan said. 

Bollweg reiterated this when asked about it. 

“The benefits for us to get it were that we wouldn’t have to be put into isolation if we were contact traced and we wouldn’t have to be tested 3 times a week.” 

Alec Ille, who is a part of the cross country team who is ranked first in the nation, is one athlete that is not vaccinated. 

“I’m not anti-vaccination or anti-masking, I am opposed to the idea of vaccines and masking as the way to stay healthy. Having to be tested three times a week is annoying to me. It feels like I am being weeded out. I personally have full confidence in my own health and feel no need to be vaccinated,” Ille said.  

As of Oct. 10, no athletic contests have had to be postponed due to COVID reasons. Wartburg has done multiple vaccine clinics in the past in which they partnered with the local HyVee. The most recent one occurred Sept. 20. 


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