UM System to enforce federal vaccine mandate: Who’s required to get a shot?


ST. LOUIS, MO. — Faculty, staff, and student employees at four of the state’s universities will be required to get vaccinated by January after the University of Missouri Board of Curators voted Thursday to comply with the federal mandate. 

Since the start of the school year, the University of Missouri Kansas City (UMKC), University of Missouri Columbia (Mizzou), University of Missouri Science and Technology, and University of Missouri St. Louis (UMSL) invited the campus community to upload their vaccination card.

After a 7-1 vote Thursday, faculty, staff, and student workers will be required to update their vaccination card by Jan. 4 unless they have an exemption. 

“We have hundreds of millions of dollars in federal research and other contracts and grants,” Mizzou President Mun Choi said. “Some of these projects are critically important, whether it’s MU Health Care physicians treating veterans. We produce 14,500 doses of the key ingredients that go into cancer medicine each week to treat patients throughout the western hemisphere.”

Choi also pointed out the National Security and Defense research done at Missouri S&T. He said Biden’s mandate leaves little choice for an organization not to require all employees to get vaccinated. 

Between the four campuses, nearly 29,000 faculty, staff, and students have uploaded their vaccination cards as of this week — but Choi believes there are more. 

“There are maybe employees, as well as student employees, that have already been vaccinated that did not upload their vaccination status,” Choi said. 

UM System Curator Todd Graves abstained from voting.

“It’s a gross overreach of authority of the office of the President, and I’m not going to help him with it, but I’m also not going to hurt the university,” Graves said before the vote. 

Under the resolution, there are three exemptions, religious and medical reasons, and based on the university’s decision, how close of contact an individual has with a federal contracted employee. 

Vice-chair of the board Greg Hoberock told other curators he would like to see the universities move people around. 

“If we can move some people around to reach this lack of interaction and I understand that there’s a cost associated with that and I understand that we may be able to get reimbursed for those costs if we make a claim,” Hoberock said. “I want to strongly encourage the university at all different levels to make those accommodations as much as you can.”

Choi said he is going to challenge the universities to segregate people when possible. He pointed out to the board he feels as if there are almost four exemptions for employees. 

“I believe with the three exemptions that we’ve provided, as well as the opportunity for us to segregate those that can be demonstrated not to interact with those that support work of federal contracts,” Choi said.
The board is now tasked with creating policies on if and how an employee could be penalized for not complying.  A spokesperson for Mizzou said more details will be announced in the coming weeks on how employees may request exemptions. 

Choi said because of the funding and research for the system, this decision had to be made. 

When asked if he thinks this mandate will cause people to leave their job, he said, “there may be some.”

“We would do all that we can so that we don’t have to separate employees,” Choi said. “There are many mechanisms to pursue because an individual decides that they want to quit working at the university.

Currently, Attorney General Eric Schmitt has a lawsuit against the federal mandate. In the resolution passed by the board, if Schmitt prevails, the requirement stops. 

Employees have until Jan. 4 to get vaccinated to allow enough time to be fully vaccinated by Jan. 18 under the mandate. 

Choi told the board, of the 7,000 employees at MU Health Care, only four decided not to get vaccinated. Students who are not employees of the university do not fall under the mandate. 

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