UNM is still considering vaccine policy for fall - Albuquerque Journal

UNM is still considering vaccine policy for fall

Copyright © 2021 Albuquerque Journal

University of New Mexico officials say they haven’t decided if students, faculty and staff will be required to be vaccinated against COVID-19 before returning to campus next month.

UNM in May published a draft vaccination policy that would require university staff members to be vaccinated no later than Aug. 2 in order to return to campus, and for students and faculty to be vaccinated by the start of the fall semester on Aug. 23.

Asked about the policy during a recent virtual town hall, UNM President Garnett Stokes said school leaders were still considering a vaccine requirement.

She said the university could enact the full policy, or it could implement a partial policy – such as requiring the vaccine before students could move into a dorm – or UNM could just encourage vaccinations.

“This is a constant conversation that we have. You know, there are political and logistical and legal ramifications for any decision surrounding a vaccine mandate,” Stokes said during the town hall. “Ultimately, I think we’ve been successful through this pandemic by focusing on (the) health and safety of our community by following science-driven guidance.”

When UNM released the draft proposal, it also created a system for students, employees and community members to comment on the requirement. UNM received more than 1,300 comments. Of those, 786 people said they were opposed to the policy and 443 were in favor of the requirement, according to a UNM spreadsheet summarizing the comments.

Among students, 211 wrote against the policy and 153 were in favor of it. Faculty members were supportive of requiring the vaccine, 111 to 23, according to the spreadsheet.

The draft said the policy won’t be enforced until the Food and Drug Administration gives full approval to a COVID vaccine, which hasn’t happened.

Currently, the federal agency has given emergency use authorization for several types of COVID vaccines. Drug makers Pfizer and Moderna have applied to the FDA for full approval of their respective vaccines.

The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are distributed in a two-shot regimen spaced three or four weeks apart from each other, and then the vaccines take two weeks to be fully effective. So any students holding off on getting vaccinated would be pressed to get inoculated ahead of the start of the semester, if UNM enacts its policy.

Across the country and the region, colleges and universities are divided on vaccine requirements. Fort Lewis College in Durango, Colorado, is requiring students get vaccinated. The Colorado State University system will require the vaccine for students, faculty and staff once one or more vaccines get full FDA approval.

Arizona State University announced plans last month to require students to provide the university with proof of a vaccine, or face measures like submitting a daily health check, twice weekly testing and an indoor and outdoor mask requirement. That policy was blocked by Republican Gov. Doug Ducey, who issued an executive order preventing a public university or community college in the state from requiring the vaccine.

Justin Bannister, a spokesman for New Mexico State University, said the school isn’t requiring the vaccine but officials are encouraging students and employees to get vaccinated.

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