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Interim UA president denies request for vaccines for UAF staff, students

A view of University of Alaska campus.
A view of University of Alaska campus.(KTVF)
Published: Oct. 18, 2021 at 3:32 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - Interim University of Alaska President Pat Pitney has denied a request from the University of Alaska Fairbanks chancellor to make COVID-19 vaccines a requirement for all in-person students and staff at that campus.

UAF Chancellor Dan White had formally requested on Oct. 1 that Pitney consider requiring vaccines for all employees and in-person students at the UAF campus. He cited a high COVID-19 case count and high community transmission in Fairbanks, as well as requests from campus student groups and staff.

Pitney announced her decision on Monday. It came after “discussion with leaders throughout the UA system,” Pitney wrote in an email to University of Alaska staff and students.

“I have decided to maintain the existing process for specific programmatic vaccine requirements and not require COVID-19 vaccination for Fairbanks-based faculty, staff and in-person students at this time,” she wrote in the email.

Pitney wrote that while she “wholeheartedly” believes vaccination is the best line of defense against the virus, there were several factors for denying the request, including that the university system as a whole may institute a vaccine requirement in the near future to comply with federal vaccine requirements.

“It makes sense to hold implementation of any broad vaccination requirement until we have more clarity on the extent and scope of the anticipated federal vaccination requirements,” Pitney wrote. “In the meantime, we are relying on your attention to the university’s multi-layer mitigation strategy, which includes masking and staying home when you are sick. These simple measures will help continue to keep COVID infection rates at a manageable level within our campus communities.”

Pitney stressed that any systemwide vaccine requirement would include provisions for staff and students to apply for medial and religious exemptions.

“We are also discussing ways to incentivize and support vaccination among students and employees, regardless of any action by our federal funding agencies,” she wrote.

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