Most employees at Mississippi’s eight public universities will need to be vaccinated against COVID-19 after a vote by the Mississippi Institutions of Higher Learning board of directors on Monday.
The move is a reversal from a previous decision taken in September by the board of directors to ban public universities from requiring COVID-19 vaccinations unless students or employees work in a clinical setting, such as at the University of Mississippi Medical Center.
The Mississippi State Department of Health reported 1,670 more COVID-19 cases, 33 deaths and 30 ongoing outbreaks in long-term care facilities. State has a total of 503,322 cases and 1,368,029 people have been fully vaccinated.
Lafayette County has recorded four new cases of COVID-19. There were no deaths or outbreaks in LTC facilities. The county has a total of 8,581 cases, 140 deaths and 199 outbreaks in LTC facilities.
The action came on the same day that the Department of Health reported that Mississippi had passed 10,000 deaths from the coronavirus or its complications in the state, which has a population of around 3 million.
The board of directors voted 9-3 to comply with a September 9 executive order from President Joe Biden that requires employees who perform work related to federal contracts to be vaccinated unless they are eligible for a medical, disability or religious exemption. The order states that contractors must be vaccinated by December 8. It was not immediately clear how many employees would be affected by the vote.
According to Lisa Stone, director of strategic communications at the University of Mississippi, the university is working to comply quickly with Biden’s order. The order includes standard employees as well as student employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19.
According to federal government guidelines, 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.
Accommodation will be provided for those who cannot get vaccinated because of a health problem or because of sincere religious belief, practice or observance, Stone said.
Mississippi universities have about 120 federal contracts totaling at least $ 271 million. In a statement to the university, Chancellor Glenn Boyce said MU is receiving federal contacts and working on active federal contracts worth $ 91 million.
Employees must receive their first injection of Moderna vaccine by October 27, Pfizer vaccine by November 3, and the second dose at the appropriate time, or Johnson & Johnson single-dose vaccine by November 24 in order to be fully immunized with the deadline.
Employees will be required to provide proof of vaccination and those who fail to provide proof by December 8 will be placed on unpaid leave until proof is provided. Employees who do not provide proof of vaccination or who have not received an accommodation by January 3, 2022 may be removed from their duties.
The University Health Center pharmacy offers free Johnson & Johnson and Pfizer vaccines every day of the week from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on a walk-in basis. Anyone 18 years of age and older is eligible for the J&J vaccine, and anyone 12 years of age 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 additional questions, contact 662-915-5279 or by email firstname.lastname@example.org.