University of Arizona, ASU and NAU to require employees get vaccinated

Published: Oct. 15, 2021 at 10:46 AM MST|Updated: Oct. 15, 2021 at 11:30 AM MST
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TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - The University of Arizona, Arizona State and Northern Arizona will require all employees get vaccinated against COVID-19.

The University of Arizona, ASU and NAU made the announcement Friday in emails to employees that were obtained by KOLD News 13.

“Dear Colleagues, President Biden recently issued an Executive Order that requires institutions that contract with the federal government, such as the University of Arizona, to comply with guidance from the Safer Federal Workforce Task Force,” University of Arizona President Dr. Robert C. Robbins said in an email. “The University has hundreds of millions of dollars in federal contracts, funding critical research, employment, and educational efforts, and already has received amended federal contracts that include this requirement.”

Robbins said while the school respects individual opinions about the vaccine, it will comply with the federal requirement. The email did not address what will happen if an employee refuses to get vaccinated or acquire an exemption.

“We expect that most of our employees will adhere to this or have already been vaccinated,” said Holly Jensen, UArizona spokesperson.

Currently, 51% of the more than 16,000 people the university employs are known to be vaccinated through the university’s volunteer reporting system. They expect the actual number is much higher.

“This is something that we’ve been wanting to see for a long time,” said Nick Halsey, UA lecturer UCW-AZ.

The university’s employee union, UCW-AZ, said this is a great move, but it’s disheartening to see it took a presidential order—and that the main focus seemed to be on federal funding, instead of public safety. Tucson City Council member, Steve Kozachik, feels the same.

“Bobby Robbins owes it to the residents of the city of Tucson to mandate every student at the university gets vaccinated, so this is nibbling around the edges. It’s nice they’re doing faculty and staff and student employees, but that leaves thousands of people who are unvaccinated,” said Kozachik.

As far as what happens when it comes to the December 8 deadline for employees who are not vaccinated—the university said they are still waiting on federal guidance for that. They said firing employees would be a last resort.

Arizona State said it is requiring the vaccine for the same reason as UA.

“ASU receives hundreds of millions of dollars in federal funding through grants and contracts every year,” the school said in a release. “Continued receipt of these funds is essential to ASU’s mission as a comprehensive public research university as well as to the Arizona economy. Under the recent executive order issued by President Biden requiring all employees of federal contractors to receive COVID-19 vaccinations.”

KOLD reached out to Gov. Doug Ducey’s office following the announcement.

“Gov. Ducey has been clear from the very beginning: the COVID-19 vaccine is proven to be effective and safe,” his office said in a release. “He’s been vaccinated and he encourages all Arizonans to get the vaccine. The Governor also has said he is opposed to mandates and that getting the vaccine should be a matter of personal choice. His views have not changed.”

The University of Arizona is southern Arizona’s largest employer with more than 16,000 staff.

University employees, including student workers and graduate assistants, must upload their vaccine documentation by Wednesday, Dec. 8. There will be religious and medical accommodations, according to Robbins.

The schools do not require the COVID-19 vaccine for students.

Copyright 2021 KOLD News 13. All rights reserved.