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IHL Board votes against mandating vaccines at Mississippi universities

Image courtesy of Alcorn State University

Image courtesy of Alcorn State University

Vaccines will not be mandated at Mississippi’s eight public institutions of higher learning. 

The IHL Board of Trustees voted 9-2 against mandating students and employees to show proof of vaccination as a condition of employment or enrollment at a special emergency called meeting held earlier today.

“The Board of Trustees strongly recommends all eligible students and employees within the university system get vaccinated against COVID-19,” Dr. J. Walt Starr, president of the board, said. “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. 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.”

The Board of Trustees is following the recommendations from the Mississippi State Department of Health’s COVID-19 Public Health Guidance for College and University Settings. The MSDH continues to strongly recommend vaccinations for all students and staff but have not mandated the shot. All universities have implemented mask mandates for buildings on their respective campuses. 

The IHL credited each institution for their efforts to encourage vaccinations, including offering incentives such as tuition credits, dining dollars, bookstore vouchers, housing credits, gift cards and parking passes, for students who show proof of vaccination. The IHL says they’ve also provided numerous opportunities on campus for students and their families, employees and their families, and community members who are eligible to get vaccinated.

The Board did note an exception for the University of Mississippi Medical Center given they care for immunocompromised patients and for students in other healthcare-related programs at the universities, given they may be required by a healthcare provider to get the vaccine to complete clinical hours within that clinical facility.

“The Board will continue to monitor the situation on our campuses and make appropriate adjustments and exceptions necessary to assist our universities during these very difficult times,” said Dr. Alfred Rankins, Jr. Commissioner of Higher Education.

Commissioner Rankins outlined numerous ways the universities are mitigating the spread in an op-ed released earlier this week.

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