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Speaker Gunn: University employees,...

Speaker Gunn: University employees, students should not be mandated to get COVID-19 vaccine

By: Anne Summerhays - November 12, 2021

Gunn requests IHL halt enforcement of mandatory vaccinations citing infringement on rights of employees and students over threats from Biden Administration.

This week, Speaker of the Mississippi House of Representatives Philip Gunn wrote a letter to Dr. Alfred Rankins, the Commissioner of Higher Education, asking him to halt enforcement of the COVID-19 vaccine mandates it implemented in late October in response to President Joe Biden’s federal actions.

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Gunn also reminded Rankins of a previous request he made prior to the decision by the Institutions of Higher Learning (IHL) Board to comply with the federal mandates, saying despite the two’s phone call three weeks ago, the IHL Board proceeded with the mandates anyway.

“Our dedicated university employees should not be forced to choose between their jobs and their right to control their health care decisions as they pertain to the COVID-19 vaccine,” Speaker Gunn wrote. “I have advocated and still advocate for Mississippians to take their COVID-19 vaccine if they believe that is right for the after consultation with their medical provider, but I strongly object to coerced COVID-19 vaccinations.”

Weeks after the Institute of Higher Learning board voted to ban mandates as a condition of employment and student enrollment, IHL reversed their decision. The IHL Board of Trustees decided that all of the state’s public universities must require faculty and staff to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.

All employees, except those who meet the exemption requirements for with religious and medical reasons, must be fully vaccinated by December 8, 2021.

Attorney General Lynn Fitch asked the court to issue a preliminary injunction to halt enforcement of the mandate against federal contractors, including affected universities. The Court scheduled a status conference for November 15, 2021 and a ruling on the preliminary injunction will most likely be issued before vaccines can be mandated.

“Forcing people to vaccinate or lose their jobs is a flawed premise – that decision belongs to each individual – and the mismanaged execution of that idea demonstrates how utterly unworkable it is as a national policy,” said Attorney General Fitch.

Gunn concludes that he is requesting that IHL halt enforcement of mandatory vaccinations, at least until after the court has had time to grant the State’s request for an injunction as there is now no justification for to “act rashly” to mandate the vaccinations.

“I recognize that the vaccine mandates place our universities in a difficult situation,” Gunn tells Rankins, “The Biden Administration should not force universities to infringe on their employees’ and students’ rights under the threat of losing federal contracts.”

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.
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