Virus Outbreak Mississippi (copy)

In this file photo, Amachi Albright, 16, of Jackson, receives his COVID-19 vaccination at the Rose E. McCoy Auditorium on the Jackson State University campus in Jackson, Miss., Tuesday, July 27, 2021.

TUPELO • Employees of Mississippi's eight public universities must be vaccinated against COVID-19 by Dec. 8 as part of a mandate for federal workers and contractors, the State Institutions of Higher Learning Board of Trustees said during an emergency called meeting, Monday afternoon.

The board voted 9-3 in favor of requiring vaccination, with Teresa Hubbard, Jeanne Carter Luckey and Gregory Rader voting against.

Prior to the vote, Trustee Hubbard requested to postpone it, saying she and other board members had not received a copy of the motion until 11:30 p.m. Sunday.

"I personally don't even know what this motion says," Hubbard said, after the motion was read by Trustee Gee Ogletree. "It's very difficult for me to determine what we're trying to accomplish with this when we've had very little time to process it."

Trustee Dr. Alfred E. McNair Jr. made a motion to proceed, and the board ultimately voted 7-5 to proceed with the vote before approving the mandate for employees.

Federal contractors, including employees of colleges and universities with federal contracts, must be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by Dec. 8, 2021, in accordance with Executive Order 14042 signed by President Joe Biden in early September.

Ogletree explained that the board is "required to act quickly" because of the vaccine schedule established by the executive order.

Employees must receive the final dose of whichever vaccine they choose two weeks prior to Dec. 8 to be considered fully vaccinated by the deadline.

In order to be fully vaccinated by Dec. 8, an employees will have to receive their first Moderna dose by Oct. 27 or first Pfizer dose by Nov. 3, with the second required Moderna or Pfizer dose administered by Nov. 24. They can also receive the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine by Nov. 24.

The motion approved by the board states that its universities either are, or are likely to be, recipients of federal government contracts so as to be considered a contractor or sub-contractor of the federal government during the effective time of the executive order.

Currently, Mississippi's eight public universities have approximately 120 federal contracts valued at $271 million.

Should the executive order be "stayed, delayed or revoked," the IHL said its motion will be stayed or revoked accordingly.

The decision to require vaccinations for employees comes less than two months after the board previously voted 9-2 against requiring COVID-19 vaccines for university faculty, staff and students at the end of August.

Board President Dr. J Walt Starr said that while the board recently passed a motion prohibiting requiring the vaccine as a condition of employment or enrollment, "federal law and regulations supersede Board policy."

"We are forced to comply with federal executive order or risk losing access to federal contracts, which play a significant role in furthering the research mission at our universities," Starr said. "While the Board prefers to allow individuals to make their own decisions about their health-related issues, President Biden’s executive order effectively ties our hands."

The federal mandate applies to faculty, professional staff, support staff and student workers at institutions that are federal contractors or subcontractors. Vaccination is not a condition of student enrollment.

Those employees must show proof of being fully vaccinated, or receive an accommodation for a disability, medical reasons or sincerely held religious beliefs, by Dec. 8, 2021.

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