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IHL Board prohibits COVID vaccine in...

IHL Board prohibits COVID vaccine in public universities as condition of employment, student enrollment

By: Anne Summerhays - September 21, 2021

This action applies to all eight of Mississippi’s public universities and colleges.

In August, trustees of the Institutes of Higher Learning (IHL) in Mississippi voted not to pass a vaccine mandate at that time for colleges and universities. Some of the trustees during the August meeting worried that with students being piled together at universities and not vaccinated, it would increase numbers as the school year continued.

“The vaccine is clearly the best protection against COVID-19 infections, transmissions, and has been medically reviewed and approved by our country’s leading scientific experts,” Dr. J. Walt Starr, president of the Board of Trustees of IHL had said. “However, the Board does not deem it prudent to require it as a condition of employment or enrollment, except at the University of Mississippi Medical Center and other clinical settings.”

Last week, the IHL Board went a step further and voted to prohibit colleges and universities from implementing a COVID vaccine mandate for employment or enrollment except for in clinical settings.

The Mississippi Board of Trustees of State Institutions of Higher Learning governs Alcorn State University; Delta State University; Jackson State University; Mississippi State University including the Mississippi State University Division of Agriculture, Forestry and Veterinary Medicine; Mississippi University for Women; Mississippi Valley State University; the University of Mississippi including the University of Mississippi Medical Center; and the University of Southern Mississippi.

Though the COVID-19 vaccine will not be mandated at Mississippi’s eight public universities, many institutions are offering incentives for their students and faculty to get the vaccine.

The Mississippi State Department of Health has strongly recommended eligible students get a COVID-19 vaccine, but has not required students to get the vaccine.

The CDC states that, “to maximize protection from the Delta variant and prevent possibly spreading it to others, get vaccinated as soon as you can and wear a mask indoors in public if you are in an area of substantial or high transmission.”

In September, the Biden Administration released the Path Out of the Pandemic COVID-19 Action Plan. The White House says that this plan is meant to reduce the spread of the COVID Delta variant and boost vaccination rates nationwide for the 80 million unvaccinated Americans. President Biden has said that these mandates are not about freedom or personal choice, but protecting Americans.

“We’re going to protect vaccinated workers from unvaccinated co-workers,” Biden had declared. “We’re going to reduce the spread of Covid-19 by increasing the share of the work force that is vaccinated in businesses all across America.”

According to the White House, his plan will ensure they are using every available tool to combat COVID-19 and save lives, keep schools open and safe, and protecting our economy from lockdowns and damage.

The White House and the U.S. Department of Education are inviting colleges and universities across the United States to sign up for the COVID-19 College Vaccine Challenge.

“All institutions who sign up will be listed on the White House website, and we will feature Vaccine Champion Colleges throughout the summer in social media, events, and remarks.  We will facilitate events for colleges to learn from each other – panels, communities of practice, and more – and we will provide toolkits, best practices, communications materials for engaging parents, and briefings with Administration officials,” the website states.

About the Author(s)
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Anne Summerhays

Anne Summerhays is a recent graduate of Millsaps College where she majored in Political Science, with minors in Sociology and American Studies. In 2021, she joined Y’all Politics as a Capitol Correspondent. Prior to making that move, she interned for a congressional office in Washington, D.C. and a multi-state government relations and public affairs firm in Jackson, Mississippi. While at Millsaps, Summerhays received a Legislative Fellowship with the Women’s Foundation of Mississippi where she worked with an active member of the Mississippi Legislature for the length of session. She has quickly established trust in the Capitol as a fair, honest, and hardworking young reporter. Her background in political science helps her cut through the noise to find and explain the truth. Email Anne: