As of Aug. 31, 88% of University of New Hampshire (UNH) students arriving in Durham, 77% of UNH faculty and 70% of UNH staff had provided proof of vaccination. Despite relatively high vaccination rates, COVID-19 is still prevalent on campus, with the UNH COVID-19 dashboard showing 74 positive tests in the last seven days as of Sept. 22.

Juan Rojo, clinical assistant professor of molecular, cellular, and biomedical sciences at UNH, said the answer lies in how the vaccines work.

According to Rojo, the vaccination does not guarantee someone won’t get COVID-19 but it certainly helps. “In a vaccinated person the disease may still happen, but it is not going to be as severe as in the unvaccinated,” said Rojo. UNH Health & Wellness reported, as of Sept. 13, .74% of the vaccinated population and 1.2% of the unvaccinated population had tested positive for COVID-19.

Rojo also said there is a difference between someone infected with COVID-19 versus someone who has the disease. “Vaccinated doesn’t mean that it is going to prevent from infection, so I can be infected, my immune system has already been primed to recognize that pathogen and be able to neutralize it faster, but I can still shed, I can still transmit that infection,” he said. Rojo added that the window when someone can transmit the virus is shorter in those who are vaccinated.

New variants are more likely to mutate within the unvaccinated community. “Because the virus gets to stay in the body longer, it has a greater chance for mutation and for spreading and creating a new variant,” said Rojo.

As of the Sep. 14 UNH reported that 94% of students at the Durham location are in compliance with testing protocols.