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KU will implement COVID-19 vaccine mandate for employees, following Kansas Board of Regents guidance

Article last updated at 12:21 p.m. Friday, Oct 22:

The University of Kansas will implement a mandate for all employees to get fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by Dec. 8.

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“Because of the scope of the federal order, this mandate applies to all KU employees – including student employees – on all campuses and in all KU affiliates and auxiliaries, unless an employee applies for and receives a religious or medical exemption. Employees who do not comply with the vaccine requirement are subject to disciplinary action up to and including termination from employment,” according to an announcement from Chancellor Douglas Girod’s office Friday morning.

“… KU participates in millions of dollars in federal contracts that fund research, employment and educational efforts — all of which are at risk if we are not aligned with the executive order. For this reason, we cannot be flexible with employees who choose not to comply with the vaccine requirement.”

Girod wrote that “In the days ahead, we will share information on how employees can submit proof of vaccination through a secure upload process or apply for a religious or medical exemption through the applicable Human Resources office.

In the meantime, unvaccinated employees need to seek their first vaccine dose immediately,” the announcement emphasized.

Wednesday, Oct. 27 would be the last date that an employee could receive their first dose of the Moderna vaccine in order to be fully vaccinated by the deadline; for Pfizer shots, the deadline for the first dose is Nov. 3, and for Johnson & Johnson’s single-dose shot, the last day would be Nov. 24. See the full memo at this link.

Blake Flanders, president of the Kansas Board of Regents, told university leaders in a memo Thursday that to maintain the “hundreds of millions” of dollars brought in by the contracts between state universities and federal agencies, they would essentially have no choice but to vaccinate their workforce.

“Federal contractors and subcontractors (including the state universities) will be faced with having to accept the clause and follow its requirements in order to maintain federal projects and the funding that accompanies them,” Flanders wrote. “The six state universities in Kansas have hundreds of contracts with Federal agencies, such as NASA, the Department of Justice, the Department of Defense, the Armed Forces, the Department of Health and Human Services, Department of Energy, the National Science Foundation, and the Department of Education, as well as subcontracts with large private companies that act as federal contractors.”

“These contracts and subcontracts provide hundreds of millions of dollars to the institutions and to the State of Kansas,” the memo continued. “Failure to adhere to the (Executive Order) and September 24 Guidance would jeopardize this critical funding and the research component of the institution’s mission.”

The guidance Flanders mentioned was issued two weeks after Biden’s executive order, and states in part that current covered contractor employees have until Dec. 8 to be fully vaccinated.

“For contracts after that date, all covered contractor employees must be fully vaccinated: a) by the first day of the period of performance on a newly awarded covered contract; or b) by the first day of the period of performance on an exercised option or extended or renewed contract when the clause has been incorporated into the covered contract,” the guidance reads.

KBOR-Memo-re-Federal-Vaccine-Mandate-Oct-2021

Kansas State University on Friday told its employees in a town hall meeting they would have to receive a COVID-19 vaccine by Dec. 8. Although employees will have the opportunity to obtain a religious or medical exemption to the vaccine, they will not have an option to regularly test for the respiratory virus in lieu of getting vaccinated, the Kansas City Star reported. Wichita State University has given employees a similar direction, the Kansas News Service reported.

Flanders made clear that such a determination puts university leaders in a “troubling” position. The Kansas Legislature in its 2021 session passed legislation — Senate Bill 159 — prohibiting agencies from using state funds to “require an individual to use a COVID-19 vaccination passport within this state for any purpose.”

“Every effort should be made to use non-state funds and federal overhead to finance the federally mandated vaccination requirements,” Flanders said.

Flanders recommended institutions that do ultimately impose a vaccine mandate on their employees take the following steps to comply with federal mandates:

  1. Require and document COVID-19 vaccines for covered contractor employees;
  2. Evaluate requests for accommodations for COVID-19 vaccines;
  3. Designate a person or persons to coordinate COVID-19 workplace safety efforts as outlined in the EO and Sept. 24 Guidance;
  4. Designate “covered contractor workplaces” in accordance with September 24 Guidance;
  5. Require masking and physical distancing while in covered contractor workplaces, including by visitors and students, in accordance with CDC guidelines.

Employees of Haskell Indian Nations University, which is a federal Bureau of Indian Education-operated school, were told in early September that they must be vaccinated by Oct. 15.

— Conner Mitchell (he/him), reporter for The Lawrence Times, can be reached via email at cmitchell (at) lawrencekstimes (dot) com or 785-435-9264.

If you have sensitive information to send Conner, please email connermitchell (at) protonmail (dot) com.

See the latest COVID-19 stats for Lawrence and Douglas County on The Lawrence Times’ stat dashboard at this link.

Find out where you can get the free COVID-19 vaccine at this link.

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