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In response to petition, Emory stops short of requiring employees to get COVID-19 vaccine

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In response to petition, Emory stops short of requiring employees to get COVID-19 vaccine

A medical professional administers a blood test to a vaccine trial participant at Emory's Hope Clinic. August 10, 2020. Image provided to Decaturish
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Atlanta, GA — While Emory University students will be required to get their COVID-19 vaccine before the start of the 2021 fall semester, faculty and staff will not.

A history professor started a petition that seeks to change that.

Clifton Crais started the petition that asks the university to mandate all faculty and staff get the vaccine. The petition received 162 signatures and closed on Thursday. According to the university, Emory employs more than 30,000 people.

The petition is addressed directly to Emory University President Gregory Fenves.

“We, the undersigned faculty of the College of Arts and Sciences, call on you to require COVID-19 vaccinations for all faculty, post-doctoral fellows, and staff at the university two weeks prior to the beginning of classes,” the petition says. “The science is clear: everyone, and not just students, should be vaccinated. Mandating COVID-19 vaccinations will ensure a safer environment and allow the Emory community to achieve the educational and research goals to which we all aspire.”

That petition has been given to the school’s administration, which has politely sidestepped the request to mandate vaccines for its employees.

In a statement to Decaturish through a spokesperson, the university said, “Emory University strongly encourages everyone to receive the COVID-19 vaccine to help protect themselves, each other and our entire community.”

The university noted “more than 24,000 students, faculty and staff are fully vaccinated” and said it updates these figures on its COVID-19 dashboard. It also notes that employees who are not voluntarily vaccinated are required to undergo weekly screening for COVID.

“Emory has asked each community member to play a vital role in supporting a healthy campus and taking on this shared responsibility,” the spokesperson said.  “To support this effort, Emory requires all faculty and staff to be either fully vaccinated or submit to weekly screening testing after July 1. All faculty and staff have been required to share their vaccination status with the university by July 1.

“President Gregory L. Fenves explained this protocol in a June 3 message to the Emory community, and additional details were provided in a follow-up message from Amir St. Clair, associate vice president and executive director for COVID-19 Response and Recovery.”

Emory’s response is confusing to Crais, who notes that the Association of American Medical Colleges, of which Emory is a member, issued a statement recommending Medical School and Teaching Hospitals mandate vaccines.

“Emory is an outlier relative to other research and private universities around the country,” Crais said. “As you probably know, the entire University of California system now requires everyone to be vaccinated and you can’t physically be on campus. The historically Black colleges and universities have also mandated vaccines for all students, university and staff. I am perplexed at Emory’s Policy and I have not received a clear answer.”

Here is the full text of the petition submitted to Emory’s president:

Dear President Fenves,

We, the undersigned faculty of the College of Arts and Sciences, call on you to require COVID-19 vaccinations for all faculty, post-doctoral fellows, and staff at the university two weeks prior to the beginning of classes. The science is clear: everyone, and not just students, should be vaccinated. Mandating COVID-19 vaccinations will ensure a safer environment and allow the Emory community to achieve the educational and research goals to which we all aspire.

Private colleges and universities across the Atlanta area have mandated vaccinations for everyone. According to the Chronicle of Higher Education, Agnes Scott, Morehouse, Spelman, Clark, Morris Brown, and Oglethorpe all require students, faculty and staff to be fully vaccinated.

In addition, the following peer institutions mandate vaccines for all students and employees: Brown, Johns Hopkins, the University of Pennsylvania, Harvard, Yale, Princeton, NYU, Northwestern, Stanford, Washington University, the University of Chicago, and Vanderbilt.

Requiring vaccinations is especially important in Georgia, particularly given the increasing presence of the Delta variant and a recent rise in the number of infections.

As an institution that has as its motto “The wise heart seeks knowledge,” we respectfully ask the University administration to follow the science. Mandating vaccinations for all is the wise thing to do.

Signed,

162 faculty

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