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UM not yet joining universities mandating COVID-19 vaccines for workers

University of Missouri System officials say they don’t yet know whether they will follow the lead of other universities in the United States who are now requiring workers to be vaccinated to avoid losing federal funds.

UM System curators voted Sept. 2 not to require vaccinations for employees on any of its four campuses, including MU in Columbia. As of Tuesday night, the Board of Curators had not announced any plans to revisit the issue.

In Mississippi, higher education trustees reversed course and voted Monday to require employees to get their COVID-19 shots. That decision came just weeks after they voted not to require the injections.

State university systems in Alabama, Kansas, Tennessee and Virginia have all recently announced that they will comply with President Joe Biden’s executive order, according to a story in Forbes.

Most of the school systems cited their dependence on federal contracts and the possible repercussions from noncompliance, according to the Forbes article authored by former Missouri State University president Michael Nietzel.

Other universities’ decisions about the vaccination mandate will not affect the decision of the UM System, UM spokesperson Christian Basi said.

“Certainly having information about what other universities are doing is good information to have, but we are going to make decisions based on how it directly impacts us,” he said.

Universities across the country and other companies with more than 100 employees that receive contracts from the federal government must have all employees fully vaccinated by Dec. 8 to maintain their funding.

At MU, the amount of funding and the specific contracts that would be affected are still being determined by the UM System’s legal team, Basi said. The legal team and administrators are still discussing how to move forward, he said.

The National Law Review states that the mandate applies to contracts that begin after the Dec. 8 deadline as well, meaning that noncompliance now might have long-lasting consequences for universities seeking future contracts.

For employees to be compliant with the executive order by Dec. 8, they would have until Nov. 3 to receive their first dose of the Pfizer vaccination and Wednesday to receive Moderna, according to multiple news reports. The last day to receive the one-shot Johnson and Johnson vaccine would be Nov. 24.

According to The Texas Tribune, the University of Texas system has also yet to determine how the executive order will impact its funding. Like Missouri, universities in Texas are caught between pressures from conservative state legislatures and the policies of the Biden administration.

Other schools have created a plan for issuing this mandate regarding the implications of the mandate for its employees.

WDAF-TV out of Kansas City reported Kansas State University determined the requirement is a condition of employment, meaning that any employees not fully vaccinated by the Dec. 8 deadline could face termination.

K-State also confirmed that the mandate will apply to graduate and undergraduate student employees.

The Columbia Missourian is a community news organization managed by professional editors and staffed by Missouri School of Journalism students who do the reporting, design, copy editing, information graphics, photography and multimedia.