Why UA system removed vaccination data

Cat Clinton, Contributing Writer

The percentage of students, faculty and staff who have received their COVID-19 vaccinations was removed from the University of Alabama System COVID-19 dashboard on Jan. 18.

The dashboard is a digital campus performance indicator aimed to increase University awareness of the spread of COVID-19.

The UA System reported that 62% of students had received at least the first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine as of Jan. 10. 

UA System spokesperson Lynn Cole said vaccine data was removed because it was  self-reported.

“Due to the largely voluntary nature of this self-reported data, we do not have updated System wide data to report at this time,” Cole said. 

Vaccination data was available during the fall 2021 semester, when vaccination reporting was voluntary. The University initially offered students $20 in Bama Cash to self-report their vaccination status in July 2021, eventually doubling the amount offered and introducing a raffle of prizes in the following month.  

The University temporarily removed the online vaccine reporting tool that students, faculty and staff used to self-report their COVID-19 vaccinations in December 2021. They removed the tool in response to the vaccine mandate instituted by President Joe Biden on Sept. 9, 2021, which would have required all federal employees to be vaccinated. 

The University fell into that category due to the federal funding it receives, so the reporting tool was no longer necessary.

“It is necessary to require COVID-19 vaccination for all Federal employees, subject to such exceptions as required by law,” Biden said. 

The University restored the reporting tool after the decision and did not mandate vaccines at any time, but campus vaccination rates are still absent from the dashboard.

The mandate was overturned in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Georgia. As a result of the injunction, the University of Georgia student vaccination percentage was also removed from its dashboard. 

The University of Alabama System removed vaccine percentages from its dashboard prior to the announcement that the mask mandate would end starting Feb. 21 and that all existing protocols for COVID-19 would be phased out. 

“Our campus team has thoroughly reviewed the best available information and considered our own experience in addressing COVID over the past two years,” Dr. Richard Friend, the dean of the College of Community Health Sciences, said.

UGA also suspended certain requirements, including notifying employees of the federal vaccine requirement and enforcing mask-wearing and physical distancing requirements. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has determined that the best way to slow the spread of COVID-19 and to prevent infection by the omicron variant or other variants is to be vaccinated.

As of Feb. 22, 50.1% of Alabama residents had received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, and 52.3% of Tuscaloosa County residents had received at least one dose of a vaccine as of Feb. 23.

This story was published in the Health Edition. View the complete issue here.

Questions? Email the news desk at [email protected].