How the federal employee vaccine mandate will affect UA employees 

Isabel Hope and Jennifer Baggett

The University of Alabama will review President Joe Biden’s vaccine mandate for all companies with over 100 federal employees once the mandate is implemented by the U.S. Department of Labor. 

Under the federal mandate, employees will have the option of reporting weekly negative COVID-19 tests instead of receiving a vaccination. Companies are required to give employees paid time off to get vaccinated, and companies that don’t comply will be fined $14,000 per missing vaccination.

“The UA System will review the final rule once it is published,” UA System spokesperson Lynn Cole said. “The UA System strongly encourages vaccination, and the majority of our employees have reported they have already received the COVID-19 vaccine.”

The UA System COVID-19 Dashboard reported on Monday that 72% of UA employees and 60% of UA students are vaccinated.

UA Provost James Dalton said that he does not anticipate a campus vaccine mandate but that it is being considered.

“The state of Alabama complicates the University from having a mandate on campus,” he said. “We are looking into it. I don’t expect us to have a vaccine mandate based on what we know today and state law.”

In a statement released on Sept. 9, Governor Kay Ivey said that Biden “missed the mark” and that the mandate could be challenged in court. Ivey enacted a law banning public entities and private businesses from requiring vaccines in May.

“Alabamians have stepped up by rolling up their sleeves to get the COVID-19 vaccine, increasing our doses administered significantly in recent weeks,” she said. “We have done so without mandates from Washington, D.C., or Montgomery. I’ve made it abundantly clear: I support the science and encourage folks taking the vaccine. However, I am absolutely against a government mandate on the vaccine, which is why I signed the vaccine passport ban into law here in Alabama.”

Biden defended his decision to require vaccination in early September. Stadiums, concert halls and other venues for large events are urged to require proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test.

“We’ve been patient, but our patience is wearing thin, and your refusal has cost all of us,” Biden said. “We are in a tough stretch, and it could last for a while.”

More than 177 million Americans are fully vaccinated, but confirmed cases have increased in recent weeks. About 150,000 new cases are reported in the U.S. per day, with an average of about 1,400 deaths every day, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The mandate will involve private sector employees, health care workers and federal contractors in an effort to assuage the surging COVID-19 delta variant.

Under state law, the University is not allowed to check vaccination databases for any employees unless there is a medical reason to do so, but Biden’s executive order could change that.

“We’re waiting for that final legislation to be out,” Dalton said. “It doesn’t appear to apply to state universities just yet, but that could be complicated by state universities receiving federal funding. We are looking into that.”