Federal deadline for vaccine mandate applies to UI departments

The University of Iowa has been identified as a federal contractor, meaning all staff and faculty that are under those federal contracts are required to receive a COVID-19 vaccine. However, the mandate is currently affecting one department at a time.


Jake Wicks

The University of Iowa Faculty Council meet over Zoom in Iowa City on Tuesday, Nov. 16, 2021. The meeting composed primary of discussing the University’s current Covid-19 vaccination policies.

Kate Perez, News Reporter

University of Iowa employees who work directly with a federal contract must provide proof of vaccination status or obtain a voluntary medical or religious exemption, while the state Board of Regents has not announced a policy for all three regent institutions. 

The UI’s coronavirus website has been updated to say the university is required to follow President Joe Biden’s executive order mandating vaccines and masks for federal contractors. Employees that work on federal contracts at the university will need to submit vaccination status or an exemption by Jan. 4, 2022.

“If you have been identified as an employee who is directly associated with a federal contract,  you must provide proof of your vaccination status by uploading your vaccination card through Employee Self-Service by Jan. 4, 2022, unless you have a medical or religious accommodation (exemption),” the website says.

UI Faculty Council president Teresa Marshall told the council on Tuesday that the situation is ever changing. 

About half of the university’s employees have disclosed their vaccination status, Marshall said.  

“The lawsuits that are out there have the capacity to put everything on hold,” Marshall said. “There’s three parts to the executive order and how Iowa will respond has been evolving and will continue to evolve, because we get different information and newer information.”

In an email to The Daily Iowan, state Board of Regents Senior Communications Director Josh Lehman wrote that the regents are still evaluating the effects of the order, even as the UI is requiring vaccinations or exemptions from employees working on federal contracts.

“We are still evaluating,” he responded to an email from the DI asking to clarify the regents’ policy. 

UI Assistant Vice President for External Relations Jeneane Beck wrote in an email to the DI that “The university continues to evaluate that guidance, in collaboration with the Board of Regents and will share more information when available.”

The order has been analyzed by the regents since September, but as previously reported by the DI, President Michael Richards recently sent out an email asking regent institution employees to voluntarily submit their documentation of COVID-19 vaccine status. 

As of right now, the federal contracts are signed and the units that are involved are being brought into compliance with the order, Marshall said. 

“If a department has a federal contract, or if a faculty member within the department has a federal contract, then the faculty and staff within that department will be required to be vaccinated or opt out,” Marshall said. “That’s being implemented across different units on campus.”

The second part of Biden’s executive order is a COVID-19 vaccination requirement for staff at health care facilities that are part of Medicare and Medicaid programs. Marshall said this impacted three colleges on campus: the College of Medicine, College of Nursing, and College of Dentistry.

“Any unit that we get Medicare or Medicaid funding, those facilities and all the staff within them which would include faculty and students as visitors, [must comply],” Marshall said. 

Marshall said that to her understanding, the students included in the compliance would be medical students, dental students, and nursing students. 

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds, a Republican, has joined lawsuits against federal vaccine requirements, including the vaccine requirement for federal contractors and the requirement for Medicare and Medicaid recipients, as well as the requirement for employees of companies with more than 100 employees to be vaccinated or tested weekly.

The people that are affected by the order of compliance as of right now are those who specifically get funding from federal contracts, Marshall said. 

“Our faculty and staff and our non health care units that do not have a federal contract — they will not have vaccine mandates. Students in the non health care units will likely not have a vaccine mandate, unless they’re specifically working on a project that’s covered by the scope of a federal contract,” Marshall said. 

Marshall said she attended a COVID-19 advisory meeting last week and spoke with a member of UI President Barbara Wilson’s office Monday so her information was correct at that point in time, but things can change quickly.

“This isn’t something that’s stagnant,” associate provost for faculty Lois Geist said in the meeting Tuesday. “There are conversations every single day about this. What we may tell you today may not be what’s true tomorrow.”