UArizona president speaks about employee vaccine mandate

Published: Oct. 18, 2021 at 5:24 PM MST
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TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) -State university employees will now have to get vaccinated.

After the announcement on Friday, the University of Arizona now knows 55% of their full-time employees are fully vaccinated after they uploaded vaccination records. That’s a 4% increase from when the announcement was made. It is part of the requirement from President Biden’s executive order requiring institutions that contract with the federal government ensure employees are vaccinated.

“We have hundreds and hundreds of millions of dollars of federally supported research programs, educational programs, student employment programs, and to say that we’re not going to comply with that presidential order just seems hopeless,” said Dr. Robert Robbins, UArizona’s president.

President Robbins has long been a proponent of vaccinations and has been criticized for not requiring them earlier. He said the university has been caught between federal and state laws. Governor Ducey’s orders have banned cities and counties from requiring a vaccine, or a vaccine passport, same for students in K-12 and higher education. While there has been no blanket ban on institutions requiring vaccines, the governor has consistently urged vaccines, leaving it up to the individual.

“We weren’t going to violate state law, and we’re not going to violate federal mandates. So, it’s a fair thing to say we should have mandated way back like the University of California system, (but) we don’t live in California,” said Robbins.

While the mandate includes student workers, it doesn’t include the whole student population.

“All it does is pull out student employees and mandate that they get vaccinated, so they have over 40,000 students right now as members of this community,” said Steve Kozachik, a Tucson city council member.

The university said it is still waiting on federal guidance to determine what happens with non-compliant employees.

“I’m aware that there are unvaccinated employees, and those who’ve resisted getting the vaccine, but I think those are isolated cases,” said Nick Halsey, UA lecturer UCW-AZ.

The university was unsure how many, if any employees have requested religious or medical exemptions so far.

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