IHL: university employees must be vaccinated by Dec. 8

Published 1:01 pm Tuesday, October 26, 2021

Most employees at Mississippi’s eight public universities will be required to be vaccinated against COVID-19 after a vote from the Mississippi Institutions of Higher Learning board of trustees Monday.

This decision is a reversal from a previous decision in September by the board to prohibit public universities from requiring COVID-19 vaccinations unless students or employees work in a clinical setting, like at the University of Mississippi Medical Center.

The Mississippi State Department of Health reported 1,670 more cases of COVID-19, 33 deaths, and 30 ongoing outbreaks in long-term care facilities. The state has a total of 503,322 cases and 1,368,029 persons have been fully vaccinated.

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Lafayette County has gained four new cases of COVID-19. There have been no deaths or LTC facility outbreaks reported. The county has a total of 8581 cases, 140 deaths and 199 LTC facility outbreaks.

The action came on the same day the health department reported that Mississippi surpassed 10,000 coronavirus-related deaths or its complications in the state, which has a population of around 3 million.

The board voted 9-3 to comply with a Sept. 9 executive order from President Joe Biden that requires employees who do work connected to federal contracts be vaccinated unless they qualify for a medical, disability or religious exemption. The order states contractors must be vaccinated by Dec. 8. It was not immediately clear how many employees would be affected by the vote.

According to the University of Mississippi’s Strategic Communication Director Lisa Stone, the university is working swiftly to comply with Biden’s order. The order includes standard employees as well as student employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19.

According to guidance from the federal government, even employees who do not work under federal contract must be vaccinated if they work in the same building or on the same campus as someone who does.

Accommodations will be provided to those who are not able to be vaccinated because of a medical condition, or because of a sincerely held religious belief, practice, or observance, said Stone.

Mississippi universities have approximately 120 federal contracts totaling at least $271 million. In a statement to the university, Chancellor Glenn Boyce said UM receives federal contacts and is performing work on $91 million active federal contracts.

Employees must receive their first shot of the Moderna vaccine by Oct. 27, the Pfizer vaccine by Nov. 3, and the appropriately timed second dose or the Johnson & Johnson one-dose vaccine by Nov. 24 in order to become fully vaccinated by the deadline. 

Employees will have to provide proof of vaccination and those who do not provide proof by Dec. 8 will be put on unpaid leave of absence until proof is provided. Employees who do not provide proof of vaccination or have not received an accommodation by Jan. 3, 2022 may be removed from their position.

University Health Center Pharmacy offers free Johnson & Johnson and Pfizer vaccines any weekday from 8 a.m.- 4:30 p.m. on a walk-up basis. Anyone 18 and older is eligible for the J&J vaccine, and anyone 12 and older is eligible for the Pfizer vaccine.

For more information on the University of Mississippi’s COVID-19 vaccination initiative, visit coronavirus.olemiss.edu/vaccination/. If there are any additional questions, contact 662-915-5279 or email c19@olemiss.edu.