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OU announces employees required to receive COVID-19 vaccine under Biden's executive order

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An OU flag in front of the Bizzell Memorial Library.

OU President Joseph Harroz announced that OU will require COVID-19 vaccinations for all employees in a Friday email following a legal examination of President Joseph Biden’s Sept. 9 executive order

The executive order mandates COVID-19 vaccinations for federal employees, contractors and other identified individuals. All OU employees — including faculty, staff, undergraduate and graduate student employees, part-time, temporary and PEAK employees, and graduate research and teaching assistants — must be vaccinated with a World Health Organization approved COVID-19 vaccine by Dec. 8. 

Harroz wrote after consulting the state government, medical and public health officials, the university is “obligated to adhere to the order.” He wrote that if the university fails to comply, it risks losing “hundreds of millions of dollars each year in federal funding.” 

The requirement does not impact students who are not OU employees, and it does not include COVID-19 boosters, Harroz wrote. Employees may submit a request for accommodations if they believe health or religious reasons prevent them from receiving a COVID-19 vaccination. Medical and religious exemptions remain confidential, according to OU’s COVID-19 vaccine FAQ. 

This requirement follows an Oct. 28 press release from OU’s American Association of University Professors, noting that OU remained “strangely and disturbingly silent” by not acknowledging the release of Biden’s executive order. The association called on administration and the Board of Regents to take notice of the order and provide a public plan and guidance on how it will be implemented.

“The Executive Order also supersedes any and all state or local laws, regulations, or gubernatorial executive orders,” the release wrote. “Several public universities have implemented campus-wide vaccination requirements in response to the mandate — it is time for OU to join their peers in taking this logical step.” 

Kansas, Kansas State and Wichita State University recently applied the same vaccination policy to their institutions. The University of Tulsa also instituted this policy on its campus. 

The University of Tulsa’s Senior Executive of Marketing & Communications Mona Chamberlin wrote in an email to The Daily that because the university is a federal contractor, the order applies to it alongside most other research universities. While voluntary vaccination efforts have “proven effective,” Chamberlin wrote the university has “no option but to comply with the mandate.” 

Oklahoma’s 7-day case average is currently 736 cases as of Oct. 28, according to the New York Times. Cleveland County’s 7-day average sits at 56 cases. 

The university offers Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccines free of charge through Goddard Health Services. Vaccines are also readily available at area pharmacies and health clinics. 

Continued guidance will be released through Human Resources regarding how to provide proof of vaccination and submit requests for accommodations.

News managing editor

Jillian Taylor is a journalism junior and news managing editor at The Daily. Previously, she served as a summer editor-in-chief, assistant news managing editor, news editor, senior culture reporter and senior news reporter.

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