At a Sept. 17 meeting, the Mississippi Board of Trustees of the Institutions of Higher Learning voted 8–1 to prohibit the vaccine as a condition of enrollment or employment, except at the University of Mississippi Medical Center and other clinical settings.
At an earlier meeting in August, the trustee board approved a motion that the IHL would not require COVID-19 vaccination for students and employees at Mississippi’s public universities. But the wording of that motion, which stated that “we would not impose any requirement on the universities to mandate vaccination,” led to the question of whether individual institutions were still allowed to issue their own vaccine mandates.
The most recent college board vote, according to IHL spokesperson Caron Blanton, was meant to clarify the board’s position on COVID-19 vaccine mandates. The motion from the August meeting was also rescinded in order to avoid confusion.
In a statement to education news site Higher News Dive, Blanton noted that the state’s health department encourages that students, faculty, and staff get vaccinated, but it does not suggest that colleges should implement vaccine mandates.
“The universities in our system continue to work very hard to encourage, incentivize, and enable members of the campus communities to get the vaccine and are having greater success at vaccinations than the state of Mississippi at-large,” Blanton said.
The college board decision comes as Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves said his state is prepared to sue President Joe Biden to block the federal government’s effort to mandate vaccines for businesses with over 100 employees.
The new rule, which is still under development, will require that “all employers with 100 or more employees to ensure their workforce is fully vaccinated or require any workers who remain unvaccinated to produce a negative test result on at least a weekly basis before coming to work.” It is expected to affect more than 80 million workers in the private sector.
“The Mississippi Legislature has enacted laws for many years regarding vaccines of many types. It is unique to kids and their ability to go to our public schools. It’s not vaccines mandated in the workplace,” Reeves said during an interview with CNN. “This is an attack by the president on hardworking Americans and hardworking Mississippians who he wants to choose between getting a jab in their arm and their ability to feed their families.”