COVID-19 Vaccinations Required for Faculty?
Vaccination required for students
On May 17, 2021, University of Hawaiʻi President David Lassner publicly announced that it will add COVID-19 vaccination to its student health clearance requirements beginning in the Fall 2021 semester. The mandate for students means that to be on any UH campus, you must be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 unless exempted for medical and religious reasons. The decision was based on recommendations from the American College Health Association and the University of Hawai‘i’s Health and Well-being Working Group to create a safer campus.
Only after full FDA approval
UH President Lassner said the vaccine requirement will take effect only after at least one of the three COVID-19 vaccines (i.e. Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson), currently authorized for emergency use, has been approved and fully licensed by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The FDA approval is expected by this summer.
Treated just like other health clearance requirements
Students will be able to request exemptions for medical or religious reasons, just as those allowed for other existing health clearance requirements such as TB, MMR, Tdap, Varicella, MCV (for first year students living in on-campus housing), and other strongly recommended vaccinations such as MenB, Polio, Hep A & B, and Human Papillomavirus.
What does this mean for faculty?
UH President Lassner notified UHPA and the two other unions that represent UH employees systemwide about his intention to also extend the mandate to faculty and staff. To date, President Lassner has not submitted any formal proposal to mandate COVID-19 vaccinations for faculty and staff. Therefore, formal discussions with the UH administration have not yet begun.
UHPA’s public statement on faculty vaccinations
“We recognize the value of COVID-19 vaccinations and their positive impact for Hawaii residents. However, it is important that we move forward carefully to ensure we balance public health and safety with individual choice and an individual’s existing health condition,” said Christian Fern, UHPA Executive Director. “We have had a productive relationship with the UH administration throughout the pandemic, based on mutual trust and respect. This is yet another bridge to cross that we are confident we will be able to resolve together through joint decision making.”
UHPA recognizes that there will be many questions and concerns raised by faculty about the proposed mandate. Questions such as who is eligible for exemptions; how will the mandate be managed and enforced; will there be consequences; what can be expected to make faculty feel secure; how will this be integrated into the collective bargaining process, etc. If you have other relevant questions regarding the proposed COVID-19 vaccination requirement for faculty and staff, please email your questions to the UHPA Negotiations Committee via firstname.lastname@example.org. The UHPA Negotiations Committee plans to compile and categorize faculty questions and concerns in preparation for future discussions with the UH administration.
Editor’s Note on re-opening plans
UHPA is reviewing a letter received on May 20th from Jan Gouveia regarding reopening plans and will respond before the requested May 28th deadline.