UW continues COVID vaccination encouragement, closely watches court challenges to federal mandates

Published: Nov. 19, 2021 at 5:36 PM CST
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CHEYENNE, Wyo. (PRESS RELEASE) - The University of Wyoming continues to strongly encourage but not require COVID-19 vaccinations for almost all employees and all students while multiple lawsuits proceed regarding federal vaccine mandates.

The three federal mandates -- one for employees of federal contractors, one for entities employing over 100 people, and one for employees of clinical facilities that accept Medicare and Medicaid patients -- all have the potential to impact the university. All three are being challenged in court by Wyoming and other states.

“We are closely watching these cases -- while providing information as requested by Wyoming’s attorney general -- to determine if and when we will need to implement vaccine requirements for university employees,” UW President Ed Seidel says. “We will be prepared to do so, but we don’t know at this point when that might be necessary.”

A bill passed by the Wyoming Legislature, and signed by Gov. Mark Gordon, allows UW and other entities that would lose federal funding by not requiring employee vaccinations to go ahead and require them. But if courts grant injunctions or stays to block the federal mandates, UW and the other state entities won’t implement them while the court cases continue.

The only COVID-19 vaccination requirement currently in place is for employees of UW’s Early Care and Education Center -- although there are religious and medical exemptions for those employees. It is anticipated that religious and medical exemptions would apply to any broader COVID-19 vaccination requirement for UW employees, if the federal mandates survive court challenges.

While the federal mandate for entities that employ over 100 people would allow employees to submit to weekly COVID tests in lieu of vaccination, the federal contractor and Medicare/Medicaid mandates don’t include the testing option. UW is considering which employees would specifically fall under each of the three federal requirements.

In the meantime, the university continues its strong encouragement of vaccination for both students and employees -- including booster shots for those who become eligible. As of Wednesday, 4,311 of UW’s total 6,459 employees -- 66.7 percent -- had reported receiving at least one dose of the vaccine. As of Monday, 42.09 percent of UW students had documented receiving at least one vaccine dose to the Student Health Service -- although separate surveys have found up to 69 percent of students saying they’ve been vaccinated.

“Regardless of the debate over vaccination mandates, it’s clear that vaccines are the best way for almost everyone to avoid serious illness and death from COVID-19,” Seidel says. “We will continue to make that scientific case to our community and our state.”

For employees, a quick reference guide has been created to help report vaccinations within UW’s HCM. Students who receive their COVID-19 vaccinations should upload documentation to the Student Health Service patient portal as soon as their vaccine series is complete. This is as simple as taking a photo of your vaccination document and uploading the picture here: http://patientportal.uwyo.edu, using your regular UW user ID and password. Alternatively, students can report their vaccinations by emailing photos of their vaccination documents to Student Health at studenthealth@uwyo.edu.

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