More than 500 University of Minnesota faculty, staff, students, and alumni signed a letter asking the university to mandate the COVID vaccine for the 2021 school year as cases continue to rise. According to WCCO, a statement released by The University of Minnesota chapter of the American Association of University Professors says that there is “broad frustration and deep anger among faculty at Twin Cities that has been building over the summer about the unsafe reopening policies put forward by the administration.”
The University of Minnesota is one of a few within the Big Ten that are not requiring COVID vaccinations for employees and students. According to the letter written by faculty, 506 universities nationwide are requiring the COVID vaccine, including the Ivy League schools.
The letter written by University of Minnesota faculty was published in the Star Tribune’s opinion column. It was written by Dimitri Drekonja, Nathan Chomilo, and Michael Aylward, who are all professors in the U’s Medical School. It reads that “The U has a responsibility to make public health decisions that account for the communities it exists in, not just for those actively enrolled in or employed by the institution.”
They go on to say that a vaccine mandate is necessary for the end of the pandemic, calling it a “simple strategy.” The letter reads, “A school that strives to lead on science, public health and community engagement should not be watching from the sidelines as we try to end the worst pandemic in 100 years.”
WCCO reported university administration has said mandating the vaccine would be difficult to enforce because of an immunization law in Minnesota that allows for religious and contentious exemptions. They also worry a mandate could be “legally problematic” because the vaccines have only been authorized for emergency use and do not have FDA approval yet.
According to WCCO, “The university implemented a mask mandate at its five campuses this week, but it doesn’t plan to enforce social distancing or require routine COVID-19 testing for students.”
The Tribune reported that Michael Osterholm, director of the U’s Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy said that a mandate might harm rather than help the vaccination rate, saying that it could create more resistance in those who are hesitant. He said he would support vaccine mandates, but because of the law, “We have to be very careful in not just doing something because it looks like it’s politically correct.”
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Hayley Tschetter is a reporter with The Minnesota Sun | Star News Network. She graduated with a degree in Communications from the University of Northwestern-St. Paul. Send news tips to [email protected]