Former state health directors to president of UNC system: time to impose COVID-19 vaccination in UNC schools

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Former North Carolina State Health Directors contacted UNC System Peter Hans this week to urge a COVID-19 vaccination warrant for all students, faculty and staff at UNC System schools.

Citing the growing number of infections and the spread of the Delta variant of the virus, former principals said the university system must go beyond its current plans to protect students and their communities.

“The current UNC system policy allows students and employees to opt out of COVID 19 vaccination and participate in a regular testing program,” the former principals wrote in an email to Hans on Thursday. “This policy is not strong enough.

“There is a huge risk that without a COVID 19 vaccination warrant, the burden of new cases and hospitalizations will overwhelm college campuses’ abilities to effectively quarantine and isolate cases,” the former directors wrote. “It will be horrible if a student, staff member or faculty member dies who could have been prevented by compulsory vaccination.”

In a message to the chancellors on Thursday, Hans presented a plan that would not go so far.

UNC System President Peter Hans

While not requiring a warrant, Hans’ message to chancellors said they should ask their campuses to require students to take re-entry tests, provide proof of vaccination or, if they do not. are not vaccinated, are tested weekly. Chancellors should also put in place a “get vaccinated or tested regularly” measure for faculty and staff, Hans wrote.

“Vaccination is our best weapon against the virus,” Hans wrote in his email to the Chancellors. “The vaccines are safe, free and very effective against all known variants. Since the vaccine became available last spring, you’ve gone to extraordinary lengths to immunize both your campus communities and the general public, administering more than 92,000 vaccines in clinics across the state. We will continue to provide free and life-saving vaccines to students, faculty and staff on campus, and we will continue to encourage and encourage everyone who is eligible to get the vaccine as soon as possible. “

The issue of mandating – or even encouraging – vaccination has become highly politicized. In a recent video touring online this week, Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson told a crowd at a Conservative event that it is not up to elected officials to encourage people to get vaccinated and that those who do so should be removed from their posts. .

The state’s most powerful elected GOP leaders – NC House President Tim Moore – (R-Cleveland) and Pro Senate Speaker Tem Phil Berger (R-Rockingham) – are among the prominent North Carolina Republicans North who have encouraged vaccination as the best method. to defeat COVID-19.

Read the full message from the former NC health directors to Hans below:

August 5, 2021

Peter Hans, President

University of North Carolina System

P.O. Box 2688

910 Raleigh Road

Chapel Hill, North Carolina 27514

As former North Carolina State Directors of Health, we urge you to mandate COVID 19 immunizations of all students, faculty and staff at UNC higher education institutions in order to ensure a safer return to campuses this fall.

Nationally, other public higher education institutions have done this successfully, as have private universities in our own state. Students, faculty and staff in our own UNC system deserve this same level of protection

The reasons are clear.

COVID-19 infections are dangerous and on the rise in our state.
COVID-19 vaccines work, are safe, and readily available. These vaccines save lives. They prevent serious illness, hospitalizations and death.
Vaccination is the only way to end the pandemic, resume an active life on campus and ensure academic success. A warrant is the most effective strategy for ensuring that faculty, staff, and students are immunized.

Current UNC system policy allows students and employees to opt out of COVID 19 vaccination and participate in a regular testing program. This policy is not strong enough.

There is a huge risk that without a warrant for the COVID 19 vaccination, the burden of new cases and hospitalizations will overwhelm college campuses’ abilities to effectively quarantine and isolate cases. It would be horrible if a student, staff member or faculty member died, which could have been avoided by compulsory vaccination.

If the university leadership is prepared to assume these risks with its currently planned policy, we recommend that the university system publicly commit to enacting a COVID vaccination mandate for its campuses as soon as the FDA acts to fully authorize COVID vaccines. available.

Such a clear, proactive and transparent engagement by leaders of the university system in response to COVID 19 will save lives.

Leah Devlin, DDS, MPH

Jeff Engel, MD

Laura Gerald, MD, MPH

Ron Levine, MD

Penny Slade Sawyer, PT, MSW

Hugh Tilson, Sr. MD, DrPH

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