Mississippi universities ditch employee vaccine mandate

Coronavirus

JACKSON, Miss. (Mississippi Today) – Chancellor Glenn Boyce announced on Wednesday that the University of Mississippi is abandoning its COVID-19 vaccine mandate for employees. The decision comes after a federal judge in Georgia issued an injunction against President Joe Biden’s vaccine mandate for federal contract workers.

Judge R. Stan Baker temporarily blocked implementation of the federal mandate on Tuesday in response to a lawsuit from multiple states, including Mississippi, that argued that letting the mandate take effect on Jan. 4 would cause “irreparable injury” to workers who could be fired for failing to comply. In his announcement, Boyce said the university’s mandate will be reinstated if the federal injunction is reversed.

“We will continue to monitor any additional developments in the law, including any appeal of the Georgia decision and other court cases related to the vaccination mandate,” Boyce said in an email announcing the reversal. “As courts make their rulings, this situation could change. If the mandate is reinstated by a court, we will adjust our efforts accordingly.”

The university’s vaccine mandate for those in institutional clinical settings, such as the University of Mississippi Medical Center, was approved separately and will remain in effect.

The judge’s decision now means none of Mississippi’s public universities must require the COVID vaccine. Previously, the Institutions of Higher Learning Board of Trustees voted on Oct. 25 to require university employees to be fully vaccinated by Dec. 8, but this deadline was later extended to Jan. 4, 2022 to give employees more time to comply. The board made the decision just weeks after it voted to ban public universities from requiring the COVID-19 vaccine for students, faculty and staff. It was the first higher education governing board in the country to do so.

Mississippi’s public universities have about 120 federal contracts totaling $271 million in funding, so the federal mandate applied to its employees. However, the IHL requirement included language that required the COVID-19 vaccine requirements for employees to be reversed if Biden’s executive order was stayed, delayed or revoked.

Though university employees will now be able to refuse vaccination if they wish to do so, Boyce encouraged them to take the shot anyway.

“While this action stays the mandate, the benefits of getting vaccinated are clear,” Boyce said. “As we approach the year-end holiday season when we will gather with family and friends, I urge everyone to make it a priority to protect yourself and your loved ones by getting vaccinated.”

Mississippi State University announced on Tuesday it would not enforce the vaccine mandate due to the federal injunction.

Reporter Molly Minta contributed to this story.

Correction: An earlier version of this story stated that University of Mississippi employees were required to be vaccinated by Dec. 8. This deadline was later extended to Jan. 4, 2022 to give employees more time to comply.

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