Rebuffing its Faculty Council, LSU declines to mandate vaccines for students and faculty

Board asks state health department to mandate shot when FDA gives full approval

By: - June 18, 2021 5:07 pm
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LSU students line up for the COVID-19 vaccine at a mass vaccination event at Tiger Stadium (JC Canicosa / Louisiana Illuminator)

The LSU Board of Supervisors decided against mandating COVID-19 vaccinations for students, faculty and staff returning in the fall, choosing instead to pass a resolution encouraging the LSU community “to voluntarily vaccinate against COVID-19 until the Louisiana Department of Health shall add COVID-19 vaccinations to its list of required immunizations.”

The board is, however, requesting “the Louisiana Department of Health to include, upon full approval by the FDA, the approved vaccinations for COVID-19 in its schedule of immunizations required for attendance at Louisiana public colleges and universities.” The board’s resolution also states that that LSU must inform students that they can choose to decline the vaccine for reasons related to health, religion or conscience.

With its decision to request that the LSU community be vaccinated, the board thereby rejected a resolution approved by 90 percent of the 600 members of LSU’s Faculty Council asking that a vaccine mandate be imposed.

“We, the faculty, are very concerned about the low vaccination rates in our state, especially among young people,” Inessa Bazayev, a music theory professor, told the board at a regularly scheduled meeting at the university’s Alexandria campus. “More alarmingly, only 26 percent of LSU students are vaccinated — that number is catastrophically low.”

Bazayev said in-person classes next fall will become “superspreader events” without a vaccine mandate. 

Winston DeCuir, LSU’s general counsel, advised the board it would be a “major risk” for LSU to mandate vaccines for students due to the vaccines’ Emergency Use Authorization status.

The Louisiana Department of Health decides which immunizations public schools need to require before every school year, and the department hasn’t included COVID-19 because of the vaccine’s Emergency Use Authorization status, DeCuir said.

“We’ve looked at the constitutional issues as to whether we could mandate it, even though it’s not included in the state law,” Decuir said. “It would be very difficult right now.”

LSU Board member Jay Blossman objected to requiring COVID-19 vaccinations, especially for students because, he said, he is concerned that the COVID-19 vaccine “might have some long term effects on young people.”

“We can encourage you to get the shot, but I’m not telling them they got to get the shot to come to LSU,” Blossman said. “It’s not right. It’s not fair.”

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JC Canicosa
JC Canicosa

JC Canicosa is an award-winning journalist at The Louisiana Illuminator. Canicosa has previous experience at Investigate-TV and The Loyola Maroon and earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Loyola University New Orleans. At Loyola, he was the senior staff writer at The Maroon and the president of the school's chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. Off the clock, Canicosa enjoys playing basketball, watching movies and dabbling in comedy writing.

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