JACKSON, Miss. (WJTV) – To combat the growing number of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations in Mississippi, leaders with the University of Mississippi Medical Center (UMMC) in Jackson announced on Friday that being fully vaccinated against COVID-19 will now be a requirement of employment/enrollment.

In a letter Friday, a top official at the University of Mississippi Medical Center said it’s time for the institution to take aggressive action. Mississippi now has the highest per capita rate of new COVID-19 cases in the United States, according to the Johns Hopkins University COVID-19 case tracker.

“COVID-19 in Mississippi is a raging wildfire but not everyone is helping throw water on the flames in their own backyard,” wrote Dr. Alan Jones, University of Mississippi Medical Center’s associate vice chancellor for clinical affairs. “We – as an institution and as the workforce for the state’s leading health system – need to be a leader in this fight.”

As part of the UMMC COVID-19 Vaccination Policy change, the deadlines associated with each phase outlined in the policy has been adjusted. The updated deadlines for each phase are the following:

  • Phase I – Managers/Supervisors must show proof that they are fully vaccinated by Sept. 15, 2021.
  • Phase II – All other employees must show proof of full vaccination on or before Oct. 1, 2021. (Some employees who now fall under this phase were previously in Phase III.)
  • Phase III – All students and other individuals accessing UMMC’s premises in a non-visitor/patient role must show proof of full vaccination on or before Nov. 1, 2021.
  • If you are unsure which phase your position fits into, please consult your supervisor.

The option to wear an N95 mask in lieu of getting vaccinated on or before the deadline applicable is no longer available. Failure to comply with the policy could result in corrective action up to and including termination or dismissal. 

All employees requesting an accommodation from receiving the COVID-19 vaccination are required to submit the request in accordance with the applicable procedure no later than September 10, 2021.

“Mississippians getting vaccinated is the most effective weapon in the arsenal as we battle this pandemic,” Jones wrote.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.