University President passes on UAF vaccine requirement, anticipates systemwide mandates

    Univerity of Alaska Interim President, Pat Pitney.

    Juneau, Alaska (KINY) - Univerity of Alaska President Pat Pitney has decided not to require vaccinations at the university of Fairbanks for staff and students, but says she anticipates vaccine mandates later on.

    Pitney said that while she believes vaccination is the best line of defense against COVID-19, as well as encouraged all students and employees to get vaccinated, other considerations led her to the decision.

    "Each of the universities have operated their classrooms with appropriate safety requirements, and then our different universities have different rates of vaccination, different rates of transmission, but we found that our multi-layer approach is working well," she said. "The practical application of going with a broad mandate at only one of the universities when we're a singular employer was both from a practical standpoint and a legal standpoint, a little bit different, and from a health standpoint, was really not differentiated."

    Pitney was asked if a mandate would be for all of the universities.

    "The factors we were looking at was UAF specifically, largely due to the rate of the low community rate of vaccinations and kind of the risk of the community approach, which the risk at the community level and southeast is so much less because of their high vaccination rate," she said. "Although we have three separate universities, we are a common employer. So yes, if we did this, likely it would be all three universities and the system office."

    At UAS, vaccine requirements are only for those staying on-campus housing due to those facilities being a congregate setting.

    In a letter, she said it appears likely the system may need to institute a systemwide vaccination requirement to comply with one or more of their federal funding agencies. She further added in the letter that it makes sense to hold the implementation of any broad vaccination requirement until they have more clarity on the extent and scope of the anticipated federal vaccination requirements.

    Pitney said with the federal OSHA mandate, the system is anticipating implementation on January 1st.

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