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Rice mandates COVID vaccine for all employees

Illustrated by Ndidi Nwosu

By Viola Hsia     11/30/21 11:17pm

​​Rice announced that all faculty and staff are now required to be fully vaccinated for COVID-19, in an email sent on Nov. 19 by ​​Kevin Kirby, chair of the Crisis Management Advisory Committee.

According to the policy’s document, the new vaccination policy comes after President Biden issued Executive Order 14042, which mandates that all federal contractors require their employees or anyone connected with a federal contract to be fully vaccinated by Jan. 4, 2022, unless granted a medical or religious exemption. 

According to Richard A. Zansitis, Rice’s vice president and general counsel, the university must comply with this executive order because Rice has numerous federal contracts and subcontracts involving federal agencies.

“Given the nature of our campus, this means that all Rice employees who are on or may come to campus will need to comply with this requirement,” Zansitis said.

Recently, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration issued an emergency temporary standard, stating that employers with over 100 employees must require vaccinations, and any employee not vaccinated must be tested every seven days. This order was also halted by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, and therefore does not affect Rice’s vaccination policy, according to the Nov. 19 email.

President Biden’s executive order, however, does affect Rice’s vaccination policy. 

Zansitis said that universities across the country that have federal contracts, including in Texas, are taking steps to comply with Executive Order 14042.

According to Kirby, the new vaccination requirement does not yet apply to either undergraduate or graduate students. But according to Zansitis, a student who works at the university would have to follow this policy. The policy document states that this plan applies to all full time and part time employees, including student hourly workers, regardless of work  location.

Dasseny Arreola, a student who works at The Allen Center, said that since she got vaccinated last summer, the policy does not affect her as much.

“I think it’s the same for most students, but I’m glad they’re pushing to get staff and faculty vaccinated,” Arreola, a Jones College freshman, said. “I work here on campus alongside Rice employees, so it’ll be nice to have the same reassurance and safety there in addition to the classroom.”

Zansitis said he is optimistic that this new policy will continue the trend of decreasing negative cases at Rice. 

“Since most of the employees at Rice are already vaccinated, we are hopeful that the remaining unvaccinated employees will either be vaccinated or obtain an exemption by the deadline,” Zansitis said.

Kirby also mentioned the availability of booster shots in the Nov. 19 email, the same day the FDA expanded the eligibility of these shots to 18 year olds and up. Kirby said that booster shots are not required, but they are highly recommended. 

With the rise of new variants such as Omicron, there still may be potential changes to this new policy, according to Zansitis. 

“This is a very fluid situation, so there may be further developments,” Zansitis said.  “The university is continuing to monitor the legal requirements.”

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