Status of vaccine mandates for UI employees remains on hold

University of Iowa employees who work on federal contracts previously had to be fully vaccinated by Jan. 4, 2022, per President Joe Biden’s executive order. However, the requirements are now up in the air while the state awaits the result of a lawsuit Gov. Kim Reynolds joined against the order.


Jeff Sigmund

Moderna COVID-19 vaccine is drawn up on Tuesday, Dec. 22, 2020.

Kate Perez, News Reporter

The status of COVID-19 vaccination requirements continues to change for different businesses, and it is no different for University of Iowa employees.

Up until last week, the University of Iowa’s vaccine webpage said it was required to follow President Joe Biden’s executive order mandating vaccines and masks for federal contractors. The page asked any employees working with federal contracts to submit proof of vaccination or a waiver by Jan. 4.

UI President Barbara Wilson said in a Dec. 9 interview with The Daily Iowan that she has worked with the regents throughout the entire mandate process as well as with the other regent institution presidents.

“We’ve got lots of potential mandates that are all being challenged in the courts, and we get ready to move on one thing, and then it gets pulled back by another,” Wilson said. “So it’s a really challenging time for every university, I would say.”

But that directive was gone from the website by Dec. 9 after a federal judge blocked Biden’s directive, saying it was an overreach of the federal government. The requirement is now on pause until federal lawsuits get sorted out, University of Iowa Faculty Senate President Teresa Marshall said at a Dec. 7 meeting.

The state Board of Regents never offered an official policy, but at the Nov. 4 meeting the regents voted to allow exemptions to the executive order, meaning that employees would be able to fill out a waiver claiming a medical or religious exemption to an employer’s vaccine mandate.

Regents President Mike Richards also sent out an email on Nov. 10 to all employees at regent-governed universities urging them to voluntarily submit their vaccine status to their various schools.

Related: Federal vaccine mandate on hold as UI awaits result of lawsuits

While the university’s vaccine requirement is currently on hold while the university awaits the result of the lawsuit, Wilson said she wants UI employees to remember that the situation is complicated.

“We are continuing to encourage voluntary uploading of vaccine information,” Wilson said. “We’re working on that on a regular basis. We are poised to follow the mandates and we’re working hard to understand the legal implications of all of these challenges that are occurring.”

At the Nov. 16 UI Faculty Council meeting, Faculty Council President Teresa Marshall said about half of UI employees had disclosed their vaccination status to the university.

The UI established that the executive order had three different parts to it and was evaluated on the department level if there were federal contracts.

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

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 at the meeting.

“Our faculty and staff and our non-health care units that do not have a federal contract — they will not have vaccine mandates,” Marshall said at the meeting. “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.”

Gov. Kim Reynolds has joined multiple lawsuits against different vaccine mandates coming out of the Biden administration.

The lawsuits are against the vaccine requirement for federal contractors as well as the health care employees, as well as the requirement for employees of companies with more than 100 employees to be vaccinated or tested weekly.