Mandating COVID-19 Vaccination on Campus: A Qualitative Analysis of a Cross-Sectional Study of California College Students

Publication Date


Document Type


Publication Title

Health Promotion Practice




The purpose of this study was to examine college student perceptions related to institutional vaccine mandates. We utilized qualitative data (n = 2,212) from five open-ended questions in a cross-sectional study of students enrolled or intending to enroll in an institute of higher education in California in fall 2021. Data were collected between June and August 2021. Thematic analysis was employed to analyze student beliefs, and four themes were developed from the data: (1) Polarizing views and language; (2) deciding who to trust; (3) conveying rights and risk; and (4) staying focused on education. The themes represented vaccinated and nonvaccinated student perspectives, capturing views about trust, rights, and risk. Many responses were polarizing and included language that was emotional and political. Despite the range of responses, most students expressed appreciation and approval of the vaccination mandate on college campuses. Findings illustrate the important contributions of qualitative research and suggest opportunities for public health practitioners to lead and engage in critical dialogue about science and public health practices as we aim to promote public perceptions of vaccination programs and health promotion practice.


COVID-19, higher education, student perceptions toward vaccination, vaccine mandate


Public Health and Recreation