Important Information Regarding Vaccinations
As you may have heard, a number of federal vaccination mandates have been issued in recent weeks. While some of the mandates are being challenged in the courts, the ultimate resolution of these cases is unknown.
I wanted to share with you what we presently know regarding the mandates and how they impact UT and our employees.
On Sept. 9, President Biden signed Executive Order 14042, "Ensuring Adequate COVID Safety Protocols for Federal Contractors," that directs federal agencies to include a clause in various new contracts, options, and extensions, which will, for the duration of the contract, require certain contractors or subcontractors to comply with safety standards issued by the Safer Federal Workforce Task Force.
On Sept. 24, the task force published its Guidance for Federal Contractors and Subcontractors, which has three main components to its workplace safety protocols:
- Vaccination of covered contractor employees;
- Masking and physical distancing requirements while in a covered contractor workplace; and
- Designation of a person or persons to coordinate COVID-19 workplace safety efforts.
Across the UT System, we hold more than 1,900 contracts that may fall under this mandate, with a collective value that exceeded $750 million in federal funding in fiscal year 2021 alone.
It appears as though the University is subject to these new requirements and is required to ensure that all covered employees are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 no later than Dec. 8, 2021, unless the employee is legally entitled to an accommodation due to a medical condition or religious belief. The guidance does not include testing as an alternative to the vaccine requirement. Employees who have had a prior COVID-19 infection are also required by the Executive Order to be vaccinated.
The vaccine mandate applies broadly to employees who work on covered federal contracts (even if working remotely), those who work in connection with covered federal contracts, and those who work at the same location as employees who work on covered federal contracts or in connection with covered federal contracts The vaccine mandate applies in all locations in which covered employees work. Specific locations can be excluded from the mandate only when the institution can “affirmatively determine” that none of its covered employees are likely to be present in those locations during the period of performance for a covered contract. It will be up to each campus to make the determinations as to which employees and locations are subject to the vaccine mandate. The mandate does not apply to employees who perform work exclusively outside the United States.
We are closely reviewing the executive order and the guidance to determine how these new requirements will apply to UT employees at all campuses, institutes, extension offices and other locations and what processes need to be implemented in order to demonstrate compliance.
In the meantime, I am strongly urging all UT employees who have not been vaccinated to once again consider getting vaccinated. We have also created a resource tool to locate other free vaccination locations in your area. To meet the Dec. 8 deadline imposed by the Executive Order, the latest possible dates according to the CDC to start the vaccination process for each of the three available vaccines are:
- Oct. 27, 2021 for first dose of Moderna (2 doses needed, 4 weeks apart + 2 weeks to take full effect)
- Nov. 3, 2021 for first dose of Pfizer (2 doses needed, 3 weeks apart + 2 weeks to take full effect)
- Nov. 24, 2021 for Johnson & Johnson (1 dose needed + 2 weeks to take full effect)
Clinical trial participants who received another COVID-19 vaccine are considered to be “fully vaccinated” two weeks after they have completed the vaccine series.
I recognize that this is a very sensitive topic and that there are a wide variety of strongly held feelings about COVID-19 mitigation measures. We are in unchartered territory, but we are doing everything within our control to thoughtfully consider how best to address this latest federal mandate.
Employees who wish to upload their proof of vaccination in anticipation of this likely requirement can do so in IRIS. We have compiled answers to frequently asked questions and will continue to update these as we learn more information.
Thank you, in advance, for your patience and understanding as we navigate our path forward through another unprecedented situation. We will provide more information regarding our plans and processes as it is available.