Article updated at 12:17 p.m. Tuesday:
The University of Kansas is immediately pausing its employee COVID-19 vaccine mandate process, the chancellor’s office announced Tuesday morning.
The decision comes just one day before what would have been the deadline to provide proof of full vaccination.
“Earlier today, a federal judge in Georgia issued an injunction halting implementation of the federal COVID-19 vaccine mandate for federal government contractors and subcontractors,” Chancellor Douglas Girod said in the announcement.
So employees do not need to take any further action related to the mandate at this time, the message said, but approximately 83% of the Lawrence and Edwards campus employees had already uploaded documentation confirming that they’re fully vaccinated.
“We believe the actual vaccination rate among our employees to be even higher than that,” the message said. It also thanked those who had already gotten the vaccine.
“In the meantime, please continue to take steps to protect your health and the health of those around you. If you have not yet been fully vaccinated, we encourage you to do so. If you are eligible for a booster, we encourage you to seek out that opportunity. Vaccines are available at no charge at pharmacies and health clinics across the region. Employees may also explore options near them at vaccines.gov,” the message continued.
President Joe Biden issued an executive order in September essentially requiring that all federal workers be fully vaccinated against COVID-19. KU announced on Oct. 22 that it would require vaccines for all employees, including student employees, following guidance from the Kansas Board of Regents.
KBOR President Blake Flanders wrote in a message to the state’s universities that federal contractors and subcontractors, including the state universities, “would be faced with having to accept the clause and follow its requirements in order to maintain federal projects and the funding that accompanies them.”
Some universities across the country had implemented vaccine mandates, but KU did not until it was faced with that potential loss of federal dollars.
“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,” KU leaders announced in October.
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Expect the Legislature to grapple with an assortment of coronavirus bills, including one taking away authority of private businesses to mandate employees get a COVID-19 vaccination. Another proposal would add COVID-19 vaccination status to the list of prohibited forms of employment discrimination along with race, religion, color, sex, disability, ancestry, national origin and age.