By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily
The University of Wyoming is following the lead of other colleges and universities in not requiring students or employees to be vaccinated against the coronavirus to return to school this fall, a spokesman said Friday.
UW spokesman Chad Baldwin told Cowboy State Daily on Friday that many colleges and universities across the country have decided against requiring vaccinations as a condition of reopening their campuses.
“While several dozen private institutions are requiring vaccines, very few public universities are at this point, and none of our peer institutions in the Midwest-Mountain West region are,” Baldwin said. “At the same time, we are strongly encouraging everyone in the UW community to be vaccinated, because the vaccines have been shown to be highly effective and safe – and offer the best hope of ending the pandemic.”
However, the university continues to encourage its students and staff to get the vaccination, he added.
More than half of the university’s 2,941 employees, 56.2% — 1,653 — reported receiving at least one dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines and 50 reported receiving the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine as of Friday. Use of the the Johnson & Johnson vaccine was discontinued in April because of links to a rate blood clotting disorder.
While employees aren’t required to be vaccinated, UW is offering incentives for those who get the vaccine. Employees who report having been fully vaccinated are eligible for drawings for prizes such as iPads, AirPods and an Apple Watch, as well as a personal day off.
Baldwin said the information on employee vaccinations is being reported by employees themselves.
“”We’re asking students to do the same, but the numbers are just starting to come in, and we don’t have a good compilation yet,” he said. “I’m not sure when those might start to be available.”
As of Monday, the total number of active coronavirus cases among UW students and employees stood at 27, including 22 students living off-campus, three students living on-campus and two employees.
In spite of the increase in coronavirus cases this month at the university, the infection numbers and percentage of positive test results are far below where they stood at the same point in the fall semester.
The percentage of positive test results was 0.22% last week, the 13th week of the spring semester, compared to a percentage of 2.12% prevalence rate during week 13 of the fall semester.
Laramie County Community College in Cheyenne also will not require vaccinations, said spokeswoman Lisa Trimble.
Trimble said the decision was made because of a low COVID-19 infection rate at the college, as well as the continued use of face masks and observation of social distancing.
She added, however, that the college continued to provide employees and students with information on the vaccines.
“We are working to provide employees and students with information to help them make an informed decision regarding their personal choice to be vaccinated or not and feel that it is important to allow for everyone to have personal responsibility for the choices that they make,” she said. “We will continue to offer online and hybrid courses for those students that prefer to learn from home or are concerned about returning to the traditional classroom setting. These offerings also allow for flexibility in scheduling which is important for some of our students.”