BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — LSU's governing board is urging the state Department of Health to add COVID-19 shots to a list of required vaccinations for college students once federal regulators give full approval to the shots.
Friday's 9-2 vote came after the LSU Board of Supervisors adopted an amendment to notify students that they could opt out of a mandate for health, religious or other reasons., WAFB-TV reported.
Students have long had the ability to opt out of other required vaccines, such as for measles or mumps, but few have realized that or done so. Faculty members fear that notifying students that they can ignore any COVID-19 requirement will undercut the school’s efforts to increase vaccination rates as more dangerous variants of the virus spread.
LSU System President Tom Galligan said 73% of the faculty and 57% of staff at the flagship campus in Baton Rouge have reported being vaccinated against COVID-19. However, only about 27% of the campus’ 35,000 students have reported being vaccinated.
According to the Chronicle of Higher Education, 522 college campuses nationwide have required the vaccine, with 221 of them being public institutions. Louisiana's private universities, including Tulane, Loyola, Dillard and Xavier, said they will require their students to receive vaccines before the fall semester starts.
The Louisiana Legislature recently passed a bill banning state agencies, including public universities, from discriminating against people based on their vaccination status while the vaccines are still approved only for emergency use. Gov. John Bel Edwards has expressed concern about the bill but has not said if he would veto it.
Pfizer and Moderna, two of the main COVID-19 vaccine makers, have applied for full approval from the Food and Drug Administration, but that is not likely to come before school resumes in August.
The board considered the issue in response to resolutions by two faculty governing bodies and the LSU Student Senate urging the school to require the vaccines.
The main opponent to the proposal was Mandeville attorney Jack “Jay” Blossman Jr.
“I’m not telling my kids they have to get the shot,” he said. “I wouldn’t want to tell anybody’s kids that they got to get the shot.”