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University does not anticipate changes to vaccination requirements as federal mandate is taken to court

University does not anticipate changes to vaccination requirements as federal mandate is taken to court

University does not anticipate changes to vaccination requirements as federal mandate is taken to court
November 11
09:30 2021

The university does not anticipate any changes to its voluntary vaccination program in light of Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton suing President Joe Biden’s administration over vaccination requirements for federal workers and contractors. 

“UNT administrators are prepared for any changes that might impact the university but, at this time, we do not anticipate any modifications to our current, voluntary vaccination program,” said Jim Berscheidt, vice president of  University Brand Strategy and Communications.

Paxton called the mandate “an unprecedented expansion of federal power and encroachment upon individual liberty” in a press release. Gloria Cox, an associate professor in the Department of Political Science, said she does not believe Paxton’s description is rooted in history.

“We have a long history of requiring vaccinations in this country, going back to smallpox in the American Revolution,” Cox said. “Any time there have been requirements, there have been people upset by them. The argument opponents give is that their freedom is being eroded or ignored. In fact, we routinely surrender some of our freedom in all kinds of ways because we live in a community with others.”

One example Cox gave was how children are given required vaccines to go to school and how courts tend to uphold vaccine mandates. 

“Every case is different, of course, but President Biden has based his request on the [Occupational Safety and Health Administration] mandate to make sure workplaces are safe,” Cox said. 

Set to go into effect on Dec. 8, the mandate will require all federal workers and contractors to receive a vaccination against COVID-19.  The requirements have seen lawsuits from 18 other states, including Florida, Alaska and Missouri, in regards to its requirement for contractors. Over the weekend, a federal appeals court issued a stay that blocked another Biden administration vaccine rule, this one for private workplaces with 100 or more employees. 

Political science graduate student Rose Benton cited a number of Supreme Court cases, such as Jacobson v. Massachusetts in 1905, which upheld the rights of individual states to require vaccinations. Zucht v. King in 1922 saw the court rule unvaccinated students can be constitutionally excluded from attending schools in the name of public health. 

“The Supreme Court has also rejected three attempts to challenge COVID-19 specific vaccine mandates on both secular and religious grounds,” Benton said. 

Cox was unsure how the ongoing lawsuit and mandate may affect the university, but noted that some colleges and universities around the country have already complied with the mandate. 

“I assume UNT will comply, as we do not want to suffer the consequences of not being in compliance,” Cox said.

As to why there are a number of challenges brought forth by both state and private entities, Cox called it “a case of an issue being polarized.”

“Remember that President Trump wanted to leave COVID policy up to the states,” Cox said. “With so many cases and so many deaths, something had to be done, so the Biden administration took a more national approach. Republican attorneys general across the country are pushing back because they have constituents who resent the intrusion of vaccines into their lives.”

Cox also pointed to a number of elections next year, noting that some candidates may want to be able to say they stood up to the federal government. Benton suggested cultural factors, such as American individualism, the politicization of the vaccine and historical interactions between the medical sector and communities of color.

“David Dunning at the University of Michigan points also to the less than positive history that many people of color have had with the medical sector, which may make them wary, especially of new medicines,” Benton said. 

Denton City Council member Deb Armintor said she is against the lawsuit and considers it a hindrance to countering COVID-19.

“The state has no business working on the side of COVID instead of fighting it,” Armintor said. “As for how the lawsuit will affect [Denton], these things will have to take a while to play out.” 

Featured Illustration by Miranda Thomas

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Will Tarpley

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