COLUMBIA, Mo. – COVID-19 vaccines are no longer required for faculty, staff, and student workers at the University of Missouri after a judge in Georgia blocked President Joe Biden’s executive order.
Less than a week ago, the University of Missouri System sent out an email to employees at Mizzou, University of Missouri Kansas City (UMKC), Missouri Science and Technology (Missouri S&T), and University of Missouri St. Louis (UMSL), telling them they must comply with the vaccine mandate by sending in their vaccination card or submitting an exemption. Now that requirement is on hold, but Mizzou officials say it could go back into effect at any time.
“We were very clear that this continues to be an evolving situation,” Mizzou Communications Director Christian Basi said.
Just before Thanksgiving, the University of Missouri Board of Curators voted that the four universities in its system would comply with the federal vaccine mandate, requiring employees to be vaccinated by Jan. 4, 2022.
“We felt that it was prudent that we move forward with the vaccine mandate because that was what we knew at the time,” Basi said.
Under the order passed by curators, the mandate could be lifted at any time, depending on the courts. On Tuesday, a Georgia judge blocked the federal mandate for government contracted employees across the country.
“In order to comply with that legally, we suspended our vaccination mandate on all our campuses,” Basi said. “This current legal action that was taken is temporary.”
The university would not say how many employees submitted an exemption since the email was sent on Dec. 2. Under the resolution, there are three exemptions, religious and medical reasons, and based on the university’s decision, how close of contact an individual has with a federal contracted employee.
“For those that requested a waiver, we are not going to take any action on those because there’s no need to right now,” Basi said. “We are going to keep that information, put it in our pending file. we’ll hang on to that information that way we got it in case we do have to comply.”
During a vaccine clinic last Friday, 192 people rolled up their sleeves. More than 90% (181 people total) were booster shots. Basi said four individuals showed up for their first shot seven for their second.
Mizzou sophomore Sydney Cleavinger said all of her friends and teachers are vaccinated.
“Coming here it was really nice to know that a lot of people around me were going to be vaccinated,” Cleavinger said.
She said having the mandate on campus provided an extra layer of protection for her and her family.
“It’s just an extra step that Mizzou took to protect me whenever I went home to my family and whenever I went to go see my grandparents, it made me feel safe, that I wasn’t going to be surrounded by people who may not be vaccinated,” Cleavinger said.
Cleavinger, from Moberly, said she’s vaccinated because she worked in a hospital over the summer. Without a mandate, she said she still feels safe on campus.
“The cases have gone down a lot and I know who I’m surrounding myself around,” Cleavinger said. “I know there are some people who don’t feel safe being around people who aren’t vaccinated, but personally it doesn’t really bother me.”
Roughly 15,000 students, faculty, and staff members have voluntarily uploaded their vaccination cards at Mizzou. Currently, there are 21 active COVID cases between faculty and staff, and 35 students have tested positive for the virus.
Basi said, unlike last year, students living in residence halls will not have to test negative before being allowed back into their dorm room.
According to the email, employees were sent Tuesday about the mandate being lifted, the note said employees at the University of Missouri Health System in Columbia or the UMKC’s faculty, staff, and students who have direct contact with patents in health care settings are not exempt from the mandate. Those employers are required to get a vaccine under a different policy the university put in place back in August.