Copyright © 2021 Albuquerque Journal
The University of New Mexico won’t require students and employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19 before returning to campus, but the school will be strongly encouraging the shots and offering them on campus.
UNM President Garnett Stokes sent a letter to the campus community Thursday announcing the decision. The school had previously proposed a vaccine requirement, and a draft of the policy had been posted to UNM’s website.
“UNM’s policy is going to be strongly encouraging vaccination for all and doing everything we can to get every Lobo fully vaccinated,” Stokes said in the letter.
The university will host a vaccination clinic during move-in days and welcoming events. It also plans to host additional clinics at the student union building.
“We know that bringing our campus together, and keeping us together safely, requires wide-scale vaccination,” Stokes said. “I know we have grown weary over more than a year of pandemic restrictions, but it is more important than ever to maximize vaccinations before we return for the fall.”
The university’s COVID dashboard has a system for students and employees to voluntarily submit their vaccination status. More than 10,000 people have reported that they are vaccinated.
UNM in May released a draft policy requiring that everyone be fully vaccinated before the start of fall semester, or face restrictions to university facilities and be subjected to regular testing. The university created a portal for people to submit feedback on the proposed policy.
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.
The draft policy said that it wouldn’t be enforced until the Food and Drug Administration fully approves one or more COVID vaccines, which hasn’t happened. There are currently several types of vaccine being distributed under an emergency use authorization. Drug makers Pfizer and Moderna have applied for their respective vaccines to be granted full approval.
Though the vaccine won’t be required, Stokes said the college has an aspirational goal of vaccinating 100% of the campus community. She said the UNM Health Sciences Center has achieved a 93% vaccination rate and is striving for full protection.
“I look forward to challenging and inspiring ourselves and our fellow Lobos to reach for the 100% in the coming weeks,” Stokes said. “We will determine intermediate goals that will inform a continuous evaluation process, all of which will be communicated with regular updates.”
Across the country, colleges and universities have been split on whether or not they would require the vaccine.
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.
Like UNM, New Mexico State University won’t require the vaccine but is encouraging its students and employees to get inoculated.
Greg Romero, the student body president at UNM, said he is confident most students will get vaccinated.
“A large population of vaccinated students is what will bring us back to normalcy with in-person classes, large events, social gatherings, and more,” he said in an email. “I am confident that is what a majority of our students are looking forward to at this moment.”