NSHE requires COVID-19 vaccines for Spring 2022 semester

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Free Covid-19 vaccinations available in the Student Union during Welcome Week. Photo taken by Larissa Geilen.

In a unanimous decision, the Nevada Board of Health approved the emergency COVID-19 vaccine mandate for students in NSHE. In addition to the other vaccines already required by NSHE, students must be vaccinated against COVID-19 by Nov. 1 in order to enroll for the Spring 2022 semester.

The Nevada Board of Health held a virtual meeting on Aug. 20, where public comments took up roughly three hours of the meeting. The Zoom call involved nearly 450 participants. Some participants expressed their disapproval of the mandate by shunning speakers who were for the requirement and praising speakers who were against it. 

“What you’re looking at is not a representative sample of people and what they feel,” UNLV Epidemiologist and associate professor Brian Labus said. “They’re not representative of the way people feel about the vaccine.”

Labus believes that many of the participants of that meeting have extreme views, and those who disapprove of the mandate are the ones to most likely attend a government meeting to complain. 

The vaccine mandate has medical and religious exceptions built-in for those who meet the requirement, according to the Nevada Board of Health. 

“We also have the announcement today (Aug. 20) that over 50% of people in Nevada who are eligible for the vaccine are fully immunized,” Labus said. “Nevadans have spoken by going in, rolling up their sleeves and getting the shot, not necessarily showing up at a board meeting and making their voices heard. They did it by getting vaccinated.” 

Currently, it is still unclear how UNLV will verify student vaccination records for the COVID-19 vaccine, but the university may have some options. Labus shared that UNLV has access to the state’s immunization record, a new permission given from the Nevada Board of Health, which may allow the creation of an effortless system for students. 

NSHE employees are already required to be vaccinated by Aug. 30. The way they plan to verify employee vaccinations may be implemented similarly for students. 

Labus mentions that UNLV only has access to the Nevada immunization records, meaning people who received the vaccine out-of-state will need to provide proof of vaccination. 

Starting in November, students who are not vaccinated will not be allowed to enroll for the Spring 2022 semester. Students must first validate their vaccination status in order to be granted permission. 

For those who want to opt out of vaccination, UNLV students have the option to take a gap year. By visiting the self-service help center, students can request a leave of absence (LOA), according to the Director of Undergraduate Recruitment, Programs and Services Barb Roberts

There are other universities that require the COVID-19 vaccine for the fall semester. However, Nevada has decided to mandate it by the next semester. With that being said, Labus encourages people to get vaccinated as soon as possible.

“By the time we hit November, we should be past this fourth wave of infection, and there may be fifth wave that’s already occurring,” Labus said. “However, even if that’s the case, we’ll continue to see the potential for transmission in our community until we have a large proportion of our population vaccinated. This is something we’re going to have to routinely deal with, so it’s not too late.”

Labus explained, if students get their first vaccine today, there are still four weeks before they can get their second dose. Additionally, the second dose will not take full effect until two weeks after, making it a six week long process.  

“I am grateful to the Board of Health for passing an emergency regulation today to require students attending in-person classes at NSHE institutions to provide proof of COVID-19 vaccinations by November 1 in order to be able to enroll for the Spring 2022 semester,” Gov. Sisolak said on Twitter

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