Federal vaccine mandate on hold as UI awaits result of lawsuits

All faculty and staff formerly had to be vaccinated by Jan. 4, 2022, but now enforcement of the executive order is on hold while the country waits for the outcome of lawsuits states have against it.


Shivansh Ahuja

Syringes for the COVID-19 vaccine lay on a counter at the VA Medical Center in Iowa City on Tuesday, Dec. 22, 2020. The center received the Moderna vaccine for its employees.

Kate Perez, News Reporter

The University of Iowa’s requirement that employees be vaccinated against COVID-19 by Jan. 4 will be on hold as federal lawsuits regarding the order are ruled on, Faculty Senate President Teresa Marshall said at a meeting on Tuesday.

A judge blocked the vaccine mandate for federal workers nationwide on Tuesday, saying the federal government had overstepped its authority in issuing the mandate.

UI Faculty Senate President Teresa Marshall said previously the vaccine was required to have all staff and faculty in a department under federal contract vaccinated by Jan. 4, 2022 per Biden’s order. Now, the requirement does not apply as the UI waits for the result of lawsuits Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds joined against federal vaccine requirements.

Marshall said Tuesday the university was ready to go with contracts requiring vaccinations for health care workers.

“As soon as those lawsuits might be resolved in the favor of those enforcing vaccinations, [contracts] will be ready to go,” she said.

The state Board of Regents has not made an official announcement on a COVID-19 vaccine policy for employees at Iowa’s public universities. The UI’s vaccine webpage still says employees are required to provide proof of vaccination by Jan. 4 unless they provide a medical or religious exemption.

Related: Federal deadline for vaccine mandate applies to UI departments

The lawsuits being watched include the vaccine requirement for federal contractors as well as the requirement for health care employees to be vaccinated. The requirement for health care workers was struck down by a preliminary injunction last week. Another federal directive being challenged is that employees of companies with more than 100 employees be vaccinated or tested weekly.

In the meantime, the federal contracts and enforcement of Biden’s executive order are on pause until the lawsuits are resolved. Additionally, mask mandates remain unenforced but strongly encouraged in UI buildings.

“We really don’t know anything about the mask [mandates] because that would be even a later step after the [vaccine mandate],” Marshall said. “Not [news] we wanted to hear.”